A bipartisan coalition of 44 House members is asking the Obama Administration to begin sending condolence letters to the families of military service personnel who commit suicide.
Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Dan Burton (R-IN) initiated the effort. In a letter the president, Kennedy and Burton asked Mr. Obama to overturn the policy. The White House says the practice is under review.
“By overturning this policy on letters of condolence to the families of suicide victims, you can send a strong signal that you will not tolerate a culture in our Armed Forces that discriminates against those with a mental illness,” the Congressmen wrote. They added that there are some who don’t believe those who take their own lives deserve the same recognition “as one who dies fighting the enemy.”
In the letter, the lawmakers said that the armed forces was “in the midst of a suicide epidemic” and indicated 140 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines took their own lives last year. They expect this year’s figure to “exceed last year’s grim record.”
For his part, Burton took up the cause after a constituent killed himself while doing a second tour in Iraq. The soldier’s parents learned that they would not get a letter from the president because their son took his own life.