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Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, roughly twice as many Texas Army National Guard soldiers have died of suicide as in combat, an American-Statesman investigation has found.
Records on the Guard soldiers’ cause of death also identified vehicle crashes as their top killer, claiming the lives of 54 since 2001, or 32 percent of all fatalities among Texas National Guard soldiers . Four Texas National Guard soldiers died of drug overdoses over that time.
The cause-of-death data, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes soldiers who didn’t deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those who did, and it paints the most complete picture yet of how Texas National Guard soldiers have died during a decade of war.
According to numbers provided by Texas Military Forces, 27 Texas National Guard soldiers died of suicide since 2001, while 12 were killed in action or died of their war wounds. An additional five National Guard soldiers died in overseas helicopter crashes that officials classified as nonhostile accidents.
The suicide numbers have climbed since the cause-of-death figures were released late last year; the Texas Army National Guard now counts 30 suicides since 2001, with most occurring in the last five years.
“The numbers are devastating,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chair of the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee. “This is our fighting force, the Texas National Guard. The number of suicides is very concerning. This is so tragic.”