More than a year ago, the Department of Defense’s Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee issued a comprehensive set of recommendations for preventing suicide among servicemembers; since, as reported last fall in Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s newestl report on such suicides, a nethe number of suicides has gone down but the rate has increased, and servicemembers are still suffering.

While Austin’s  5-point plan to stem the increase is welcome, the Department’s report still tells us far too little about those lost to suicide, especially their job category: were they infantry, or medics, or (like MLTF member Chris McGhee, and conscientious objector Levi Pierpont) tasked with helping maintain our lethal aircraft? A more thorough accounting was mandated in Congress’ 2023 NDAA,  as  noted below by  MLTF member Chris McGhee, host of the 20 Years Done podcast.

Last month, McGhee sent an  open letter  to the House and Senate armed service committees , urging both to demand a more thorough accounting, urging both to demand a more thorough accounting. The Task  force followed with its own Letter of Support.

Both are posted below, followed by the text of both.

Open Letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on behalf service members and their families.

Mar 12, 2024
Written By Chris McGhee
To the Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees,

In the face of the silent battles fought by our servicemen and women, the delayed release of the study required by Section 599 of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act on suicides by military job code represents more than a proceduraloversight—it signifies a neglect of our sacred duty to support and understand the struggles within our military  community.

A poignant reminder of this issue was shared by one of my podcast listeners, a former servicemember, who recently lost a good friend and fellow aircraft maintainer. This tragic loss is a stark illustration of the urgent need for comprehensive data and understanding that the delayed study promises to provide.

This study is not merely statistical data; it is a beacon of hope for those suffering in silence. It offers a chance for theirexperiences to be acknowledged and addressed. The  continued delay in its release not only undermines this hope but exacerbates the sense of invisibility and despair among our service members.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, you are vested with a sacred duty to execute oversight authority over the Department of Defense. By not employing your full authority to expedite the release of this study, you become complicit in the ongoing delay. Moreover, the responsibility for each service member’s suicide, in the absence of action, partly rests on your shoulders.

We urge you to fulfill your oversight role with the urgency and dedication it demands. Let us honor our commitment to those who serve by ensuring their struggles are not only heard but acted upon with immediate and decisive measures. Suicide prevention is our collective responsibility, and it starts with giving voice to the voiceless and ensuring that no
service member feels abandoned. Let this letter serve as a call to action: to prioritize the well-being of our military personnel above all and to remember the real human lives behind the data awaiting release.

Chris McGhee, MSgt (ret), USAF


730 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95112 | 619-463-2369 |

March 20, 2024
To the Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees,
Senate Armed Services Committee
Senator Jack Reed, Chair
House Armed Services Committee
U.S. Representative Jack Bergman

We are writing on behalf of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild, a nation-wide network of attorneys, law students and legal workers (primarily military
counselors) working in the areas of military, veterans and selective service law.

Our members have watched with great concern the high numbers of suicides and attempted suicides within the military, and the services’ frequently unsuccessful efforts
to provide the support and assistance necessary to change this trend. Many of our clients present with suicidal ideation or a history of suicide attempts, and a great many
of these have significant difficulty in obtaining help through their commands or the military health care system. Even with legal intervention, these clients as likely as not
face discouragement and even harassment from supervisors at all levels.

Given this extremely distressing problem, we write in support of Chris McGhee’s open letter urging the Department of Defense to carry out and complete the study of suicides
by military occupational specialty or rate, and urging Members of Congress to ensure this is done. The data produced by such a study will provide significant insights,
urgently needed to more appropriately address the problem of military suicides. Without a better understanding of areas of work where “suicide clusters” or simply high rates of
suicide and suicide attempts occur, little can be done to identify and address the factors causing this.
Service members in high-stress career fields, in particular, face personal and professional tensions that can lead to suicide in an environment where any admission of
mental health problems is perceived as weakness and lack of commitment. In many fields, members also face the problem of moral injury, which has been identified as a
strong factor in many suicides. The study required by Section 599 of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act will assist in better identifying and understanding of the
Military Occupational Specialties and career fields where moral injury increases the risk of suicide, allowing an opportunity for health care providers and the military as a whole to address this problem.

We ask the members of Congress to continue pressing the military to complete the study and release its findings at the earliest possible time. The lives and well-being of our service members and veterans are of paramount importance to our Task Force, and to other organizations with whom we work. We urge you to recognize the urgency of this matter, and take action accordingly.

Jeff Lake
Military Law Task Force, Chair
National Lawyers Guild