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US Soldier Who Killed Himself After Being Sent to Iraq
If you know anyone who writes about or speaks about emotional intelligence, please ask them to read the article below and think about the most popular definitions of emotional intelligence.
Please ask them to think about people who have been taught to obey, to be patriotic, and to believe that it is their "job", "duty" to "kill the enemy." In other words, please ask them to think about who we commonly call "soldiers." Then ask them to think about whether they believe a solider, brought up in that manner, who then kills himself out of extreme feelings of remorse and guilt, is someone who is lacking in emotional intelligence, or whether their suicide might be more a result of a painful conflict between their innate emotional intelligence and their upbringing, education and environment.
It hurts me to think that people like Jack Mayer, Peter Salovey and David Caruso might say that Brian Rand killed himself because he lacked emotional intelligence.
Instead, I believe his emotional intelligence caused him to feel intense pain. I wonder also if his life could have been saved even after he obeyed his superior officers and followed their instructions to kill the enemy. I wonder if it would have made a difference if he had been counseled by empathetic, compassionate people. People who supported his instinct of apologizing and making restitution to those who the USA has killed, as well as asking forgiveness. I wonder if it would have helped him to be surrounded by people who believe in helping others and in love, empathy and understanding rather than people who believed in hurting, punishing and killing others. I wonder if it could have saved his life to be listened to by people who validated him and helped him express his feelings and then asked him what would help him feel better, then supported him in doing that, rather than prescribing pills to him.
I believe there is a good chance he would have gone to schools and spoken out against war and killing. I believe the world lost a sensitive, caring, emotionally intelligent person who could have done a lot of good for humanity.
If you are sincerely interested in the topic of emotional intelligence, please read what I have written about suicide, about soldiers and about the Mayer, Salovey, Caruso definition. I have written many articles. I feel too weak myself to find the now and show you the links. I get too depressed myself when I think about what is happening in America and what people who are conditioned to be patriotic Americans are doing in Iraq and in the schools and in the churches and businesses in America.
I don't have the energy to try to convert anyone to my ways of thinking. But I ask you to please read what I have written. Please make the time. My heart tells me it is important. My feelings tell me. I cried when I read the story about Brian. I cried when I read what his sister said. I cried when I think about her losing him forever thanks to the decisions of people like George Bush and his offensively rich friends from Texas.
Now the government will be trying to deny things and cover things up. Like the fact that it was recommended he not return to Iraq. Who really cared about Brian Rand? Can the US government be trusted to care about anyone if they don't even care about their soldiers? Can they be trusted to care about the children and teenagers in their state controlled schools? Can any government really be trusted to care about people they are have power over?
It saddens me deeply and depresses me to see what is happening in the US, and in England, where a teenagers who dress differently have been beat and killed. (Read about Sophie Lancaster)
For my own mental health and to avoid sinking into depression, I have to keep my distance from things connected with the USA and England. I have to spend more time and mental energy thinking about things I can make a difference with now. With children I can see the results from one day to the next. That is one day I like working with them.
May 28, 2008
Afterthought - In previous writings I suggested you could not really have an "emotionally intelligent soldier". Now I might say that Brian was one example of one. But now he can only be called an emotionally intelligent... dead... soldier.
Handout courtesy of family Since the start of the Iraq war, Fort Campbell, a sprawling installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, has seen a spike in the number of suicides and soldiers suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Sgt. Brian Rand, shown here grilling chicken in Iraq, killed himself a few months after being discharged from his second tour of duty in Iraq. Rand believe he was being haunted by the ghost of the Iraqi man he killed.
For a while Sgt. Brian Rand enjoyed being assigned to Fort Campbell and working as a helicopter mechanic.
But that was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the War on Terror.
As the war dragged on and Rand was sent first to Kuwait, then Iraq, he told family members that he felt torn about the things he saw.
Once while wounded soldiers were being evacuated by helicopter in the Green Zone in central Baghdad, Rand waved at a man he knew. The man turned and Brian saw that half of the man's face was ripped off.
Brian later told his sister he was shocked by how white the bones looked under the flesh.
Then one day, while standing guard near the Green Zone, Rand killed an Iraqi man.
"The spirit of the man that he killed didn't leave him, it kept harassing him," Somdahl said of her brother. "He said this guy is following me around in the mess hall, he's trying to kill me. I told him to leave me alone but he says he wants to take me with him.'"
To help ease his nightly terrors, April would log onto her computer and talk to her brother over the Internet until he fell asleep.
She ended every conversation the same way.
"Sleep well, baby boy. Tomorrow is a new day."
But when he returned from Iraq in 2005, Brian Rand was a different man.
His voice was distant. His jokes were morbid. He moved as if trapped in a nightmare.
At his family's behest, he finally sought counseling at a hospital near Fort Campbell. He later told his sister the waiting room was full of soldiers who went in for 10-minute visits with a psychiatrist and came out with prescriptions for pills.
The psychiatrist spent nearly two hours with him and wrote an evaluation that suggested he not return to battle, Somdahl said. But that paperwork never made it to his commanding officer. That Sunday, Rand was told his unit was deploying back to Iraq.
His widow, Dena, said the military told her it has no record of the psychiatrist's recommendation that he not redeploy to a combat zone or any record of requests during his first tour of duty for a mental evaluation.
Months after he returned to Iraq in November 2005, Rand picked up a fork, stabbed a fellow soldier in the neck in the mess hall, then crawled into the fetal position and sobbed. The soldiers in Rand's unit picked him up and carried him over to a phone, dialed his sister and placed the phone to his ear.
"I asked why did you do that?" Somdahl said. "He said I thought I was a vampire. I said, you're going to get a punishment, but maybe they'll let you come home."
They didn't, at least not right away.
When he did return in August 2006, he answered "yes" to questions on a post-deployment health assessment form that asked if he was having nightmares, mood swings and felt hopeless, according to his wife, who has copies of his medical paperwork.
But his demons followed him home.
"He wanted to hibernate with me, he started to be more clingy," Dena Rand said. "One day he got upset and he started punching himself and gave himself a black eye. He went to formation with that black eye."
Eventually Rand's thoughts turned to death.
"He had a rifle that his wife bought for him," his mother said. "He had been rehearsing (the suicide) by putting it to his mouth and threatening his wife that he would do it. I asked him if he was serious, he said no."
He also became increasingly violent toward his pregnant wife, and his stepdaughter once had to call the police.
"He was very remorseful about that," Dena Rand said.
Weeks later, his body was found steps from the place where he and his wife married.
Soldier's Tragic Suicide Just One of Dozens
By Aaron Glantz
SAN FRANCISCO, Sep 10, 2007 (IPS) - Dane and April Somdahl own the Alien Art tattoo parlor on Camp Lejeune Boulevard - just outside the sprawling Marine Corps base of the same name in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
In an interview from the back of her shop, April talked about how her customers' tastes have changed since George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
As the war approached, she said, "The most popular tattoos were eagles and United States flags. Those were coming in so often and, you know, everybody was like 'I gotta get my flag.'"
Then, a year into the war, the Somdahls noticed a new wave of Marines coming in to get information from their military dog tags tattooed onto their bodies. Most said they wanted so called "meat tags" so their bodies could be identified when they die.
"We went through over a year of meat tags, but then that passed too," she said. "Now we are seeing a lot of memorial tattoos. Even the wives are getting memorial tattoos - moms and dads in their fifties too. And in a lot of cases they're getting their first tattoos. And they're saying 'We didn't think we would ever get a tattoo, but this one is to remember my son.'"
Because of the changing needs of their clientele, the Somdahls no longer blast rock and roll music inside the shop. Instead, the artists work in silence.
"The mood has died," April told IPS.
"For our employees to do tattoos of photos of fallen heroes, fallen friends, it plays hard on them," she said. "It makes it so our artists are depressed. The tattoo isn't done just for decoration or just for fun anymore. The tattoo has become a solid symbol of their feelings and a lot of it dealing with the war."
The mood is particularly heavy because the Somdahls have had a death in their own family. On Feb. 20, April's younger brother, Sergeant Brian Jason Rand, shot himself under the Cumberland River Centre Pavilion in Clarksville outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Officials at Fort Campbell refused to comment on Brian Rand's suicide, saying they don't discuss individual soldier's deaths. But the military brass has been investigating what seems like an increasing trend of soldiers taking their own lives.
Last month, the Army issued a document called the "Army Suicide Event Report, 2006" showing suicides were at their highest point in 26 years.
"There was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed" in Iraq, Afghanistan or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, the report said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who not only attempted, but succeeded in killing themselves.
The Army confirmed 99 suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the year before.
Brian Jason Rand was born Dec. 9, 1980 into a military family on base at Camp Lejeune. Throughout his life, he had always been in and around the military. He had deployed twice to Iraq, returning for the final time on Jan. 2, 2007.
It was during his first tour that April noticed a change. She chatted with him every evening over the internet. In the afternoon, while it was nighttime in Baghdad, she would sit in front of her computer in North Carolina, hook up a microphone and talk with her brother, trying to keep his spirits up.
But she could tell her brother was having an emotional meltdown.
"He would say 'April, I'm having terrible nightmares'," she said. "He told me about nightmares about dead Iraqis, their souls and spirits haunting him, following him, telling him to do stuff, and it got scarier and scarier."
April said she talked Brian to sleep nearly every night during his deployment - trying to keep him alive by giving him something to live for.
"I would talk to him in a very quiet voice and make sure not to make any sudden noises," she said. "I would tell him the grass is still green over here. The sky is still blue. Just close your eyes and picture the lawn that we laid on staring up at that sky. And it's still there. When you get back, when your job is done, when you do everything that they ask you to do, come back to me and we'll lay on the grass and we'll stare at the sky and we don't have to talk about anything."
But when Brian returned home from Iraq it wasn't the end of the story. He was emotionally unstable. His family said he knew he had problems and sought help from the military.
After he retuned from Iraq, for example, he filled out a post-deployment health assessment form, admitting to combat-related nightmares, depression and mood swings.
"When someone checks 'yes' to these types of things, clearly they should be evaluated for mental help," his widow, Dena Rand, told Clarksville's Leaf Chronicle newspaper, "but according to them, he never requested help."
Brian Rand never had a chance to see a psychiatrist. Instead of giving him the help he needed, the Army deployed him to Iraq a second time.
"We didn't have very many phone conversations at all during his last deployment," his sister April said. "The phone calls only came when he was spiraling out of control so it was very difficult to figure out what he was trying to communicate."
When he returned Fort Campbell for the final time in January 2007, his family said he had completely changed.
"He'd flip on a dime," Dena Rand recalled, describing scenarios, in public and private, which made him paranoid and agitated.
The Leaf Chronicle reported Dena Rand said her husband "was either intensely happy or desperately sad; there was no middle ground, which was nothing like the man she married, whom she described as a gentle person who would 'drop anything he was doing to help anyone.'"
On Feb. 8, Dena called the police when Jason started screaming at his stepdaughter, Cheyanne.
"Mrs. Rand stated that her husband was yelling at her daughter," Officer Mathew Campbell wrote in his report for the Clarksville police department. "Mrs. Rand went upstairs to make him stop and she stated that he turned and smacked her in the face. Mr. Rand was gone upon arrival."
About the same time, Jason called his sister, April.
"He said, 'Oh, I can see everything April. It all makes perfect sense now. I know what I have to do and it makes so much sense. I have to die. I have to leave the physical realm and leave earth and go up in heaven and be part of the Army of God and I've got to stop this war and save my guys here. And the best way I can do that is to do it up in heaven 'cause I can't do anything while I'm down here.'"
April told me she tried to talk her brother out of suicide. She mentioned that Dena was pregnant with their first child together. That child is going to need a father, she argued.
But Brian wouldn't listen.
"He said the baby will be fine," April said. "The baby will be taken care of...and then he started talking about his favourite music and then from his favourite music he goes to saying 'You're going to have to know this. You're going to have to know my favourite movie. When I am gone you're going to want to watch my favourite movie, April. My favorite movie is Mousetrap.'"
Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 20, the Clarksville police department received a call about a body lying facedown under an entertainment pavilion on the banks of the Cumberland River, with a shotgun beside it.