Guard Suicide Highlights Risks for Returning Troops

Jeffrey and Pam Sloss were married just weeks before he left for Iraq.

Jeffrey and Pam Sloss were married shortly before he left for Iraq. Courtesy Pam Sloss hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Pam Sloss
South Carolina Guardsman Jeffrey Sloss

South Carolina guardsman Jeffrey Sloss committed suicide five weeks after returning from service in Iraq. Courtesy Pam Sloss hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Pam Sloss

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Jerome Sloss, a member of the South Carolina National Guard, seemed fine when he was serving in Iraq. But when he came home to his job as a state trooper, he had trouble concentrating. Sloss committed suicide on May 27, 2004 — five weeks after his return.

Military researchers say 17 percent of troops back from Iraq show signs of mental health problems such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and reservists and guardsmen — like Sloss — may be at greater risk than their active-duty counterparts. That may be because when their deployment ends, members of the National Guard and Reserves don't return to military bases, where they're supported by others who've shared the life-changing experience of war.

Though the military has better programs than ever before to handle combat-related stress, there's still a lot of stigma. Sixty-five percent of troops with problems say they worry that if they ask for help, they'll seem weak.

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