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Illinois Honors Iraq/Afghanistan Vets Who Committed Suicide

May 23, 2008

Chicago, IL – Illinois is saluting a group of veterans who are often overlooked during Memorial Day weekend; those who took their own lives after returning from duty. The American Friends Service Committee holds an event today with the goal of getting quality mental health care services to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Bowman of Forreston says his son, Tim, served as an army reservist in one of the most dangerous zones in Baghdad. He says the light in his son's eyes was gone when he came home, and a few months later, Tim shot himself. Bowman is pleading for better mental health care for our returning soldiers, including more in-depth evaluations and treatment.

"My son's mental evaluation when he came home was a four-page, multiple-question test. I have the test. It's a joke, an absolute joke."

Bowman believes the U.S. military should make it easier for soldiers to ask for help. He says veterans have to jump through too many hoops, and risk their careers in doing so.

"There is a stigma that comes with officers and soldiers admitting they have a mental problem and getting help for it. They're chastised by the military, they're shunned, and they're looked down upon by their fellow soldiers."

Bowman says his son did eventually ask for help in battling his mental demons. A letter arrived a few weeks after he died giving him permission to go to a Veterans Administration center for help. Recent congressional hearings also have highlighted the need to improve mental health care for vets.

New veteran suicide numbers will be released at the event, which runs from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at Chicago's Federal Plaza.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - IL