October 4, 2010
By LINDSAY WISE and YANG WANG
FORT HOOD — After four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in five years, Army Sgt. Timothy “Ryan” Rinella knew he needed counseling, but he feared a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder would ruin his career.
“I remember him saying, ‘It’s not as if I don’t want to go to counseling, but I want to get promoted, and they look at people with PTSD as weak,’ ” said his wife, Sarah Rinella, 26.
Her husband, 29, was found dead from a gunshot wound on Sept. 25, one of four soldiers stationed at Fort Hood who apparently took their own lives last weekend.
All four had served combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Their deaths at this sprawling Army base are part of an alarming surge in suicides among young active-duty military personnel, reservists and veterans in Texas.
A Houston Chronicle analysis of the state’s vital statistics found that suicides among Texans younger than 35 who had served in the military jumped from 47 in 2006 to 66 in 2009 — an increase of 40 percent.
Last year, suicides made up nearly 25 percent of the deaths of Texans younger than 35 who served in the military. That percentage is more than twice the rate of suicide in the comparable civilian population. Eleven percent of the deaths of civilians younger than 35 in Texas last year were suicides.
National attention has been focused on the record suicide rate in the Army, which lost 163 soldiers to suicide in 2009. But the military only recently began reporting suicides in the Reserve and National Guard, and there are no official statistics on suicides among veterans who are retired or were discharged from the armed forces.
‘Silent national epidemic’
The Chronicle’s analysis provides a rare look at the military suicide trend in Texas using vital statistics data from the Department of State Health Services, which lists military experience in the state’s death records, regardless of whether the deceased served in the armed forces at time of death or at some point in the past. The data does not include suicides of Texans that occurred overseas or in another state.