A study shows more veterans have died by suicide than in combat

Marine Corp veteran says he’s overcome his challenges with PTSD and is now focused on saving lives

BANDERA, Texas – Michael O’Dell enlisted into the military at 19-years-old. He says the Marine Corp was something he always wanted to be a part of.

“I joined because I wanted to become something bigger than myself to be a part of a brotherhood, people that looked out for each other, cared for each other, so the Marine Corp. was the way to go,” said O’Dell.

By age 21, O’Dell already had two deployments under his belt. He said he was on back-to-back deployments since arriving at his first command. He says the training he received prepared him for combat-related experiences, but did not prepare him for dealing with the suicide of his friend, a fellow Marine.

“One of our brothers committed suicide on the second deployment and uh that really, that took a toll on a lot of us because that’s not something you’re trained for, in the military and boot camp your not trained to respond to your brother’s suicide,” said O’Dell.

A study conducted by Brown University’s Cost of War Project said the number of deaths by suicide has superseded that of deaths in combat. Their research used governmental data, secondary literature, and interviews to document what they are calling a suicide epidemic.

“It’s a crisis, as a nation, we’re facing a crisis,” said O’Dell.

The Cost of War Project contributor, Stewart Howard, says the goal is to get more eyes on the issue.

“So this report can get some attention and have people realize what’s going on and how much we need to be involved in the veteran community and hear those stories and be supportive of service members,” said Howard.

The report shows over 30,000 service members and veterans have died by suicide compared with 7,057 killed in post 9/11 operations.

O’Dell says he is happy he’s been able to overcome his struggles and can now help save lives. He forms part of the Warrior Heart’s suicide prevention hotline.

“I get to answer the phone when a veteran or first responder is in crisis, I get to answer that phone and I get to share with them that it’s not over,” said O’Dell.

The Warriors Heart Suicide hotline is available 24/7. The phone number 888-378-1474 is answered by warriors.


About the Author:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT's Good Morning San Antonio. Jonathan speaks English and Spanish and is a veteran of the United States Navy. Previously, he worked in South Texas.