Ranger Up Talks Suicide: An Introduction

Updated: September 1, 2015


By RU Rob


When put together, those seven letters can draw out a range of emotions from fear to anger, sorrow to shame, and everything in between. In recent times suicide has been brought to the forefront of the news within military circles due to the ever increasing occurrence. The sad statistics show that now, more than any other time in our military’s history, our service members are taking their own lives.

So what do we do about it?

There is no easy answer to this question. The stigma that suicide carries with it is one of solitude and secrecy. There is no clear cut answer to solve this problem but I believe the first step is to get people to start openly talking about it, without fear of repercussion.

In the days leading up to Memorial Day, 2013, Blake Powers (Laughing Wolf) from Black Five wrote a powerful article. It really struck a chord with me as I had just lost another friend to suicide. It was then that I decided that if I could rally our writers, we could meet this trend face to face, open the necessary dialogue, and get people talking—the first step in making a difference.

We have rallied and are ready.

What you will read over the next seven days has been three months in the making. The Rhino Den is going to approach this subject the way we do every subject—head on. The writers of The Rhino Den are as diverse as any unit in the military. You will be exposed to perspectives from enlisted and officer; active duty and Veteran; from just about every branch of service and multiple job specialties. We will be providing statistics, personal reflections, and our own thoughts as to why and how this trend is happening.

This is an extremely emotional series for us. Some of our writers faced personal demons in the composition of their pieces and you will experience their pain and anguish. I cannot guarantee that you will agree with everything we will say and, quite frankly, expect to anger a few of you at some point.

There are a few people who deserve mention as we delve into this subject. Karl Monger, Boone Cutler, Deb Boyce, Soldier Hard, and Antonio Centeno are all making huge contributions into the education and fight against suicide. There are many, many other people who are doing great and wonderful things, but I have had direct contact with these amazing people and wish to recognize them as such.

As we begin I hope that you will take the time to share this series with your friends, family, and loved ones. We can only be successful if we keep lines of communication open with each other.


RU Rob


Ranger Up’s – The Rhino Den








  1. Murphy

    September 8, 2013 at 7:32 am

    I have been trying to figure out what to type.
    Not because I have to fill up space when I see it, or because I think I have something amazing the needs to be heard.
    I don’t know what it is I need to say, or really how to say it.

    I think it’s just “Thanks.”

    I can’t really figure out what the rest is.
    But thank you.

  2. Shannan

    September 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I just lost a shipmate to suicide in April; this is a subject that touches all of us.

  3. RangerBaldo

    September 8, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I think we have to embrace the fact that life sucks… hear me out.

    Too many kids and young adults these days are feed this absolutely BS notion on what life is supposed to be, that when you get out of high school or college you get married, have a great job, maybe some kids and life is great. No one can deny that life is promoted, especially with this current presidential administration. Life is all about everyone being equal, everyone having, and this somehow glowy dream world.

    As a member of the military who has been to Ranger School and deployed, I have been almost worked to death and seen despair and what the world is really like. Some military members have it a lot worse than me, as Soldiers we see the world as it is, not this spoon feed garbage we teach kids and young adults these days.

    Life sucks, accept that, embrace that, but you can puncuate it with happy moments and BE HAPPY. Serve other people, find a person to share fun moments in, find happiness in making others happy, find the happy spot of everything, never doubt you CAN change your situation, very few people have thier lives given to them on a golden plate. Most of us must overcome serious crap, sometimes everyday, and despite everything negative, there is always something positive we must find it, and LOVE IT. PTSD is real, but so are good people, friends, and happy times, just know that challenges and rough times are a natural daily occurances.

    If we accepted that life sucks, instead of teaching kids that it shouldn’t and keep promoting a dream world, suicide will be high, especially among Soldiers who see the real world.

    • Hal

      September 5, 2015 at 8:14 am

      RangerBaldo: I hear you. I think it was F. Scott Peck who wrote in his book “The Road Less Travelled” that life is hard and as soon as you realize that, it gets easier.

  4. Payday

    September 8, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Living a long full life is the best revenge….

  5. Murphy

    September 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

    This shit has kept me up all night.
    I’ve been going around and around trying to figure out how to add something to the conversation, how to address this.
    How do you address suicide?
    How do I, personally, address it?
    Do I want to admit that I started having issues before I ever heard a shot fired in anger? What does that make me? I mean that makes me a pussy, right?
    Does the discussion start when you start to list numbers? Well, the answer to that is “no,” because that just removes you from it, and the only way you can make a change with this is to become emotionally involved.
    And that’s what it really comes down to: the issue of suicide is one that is intensely emotional, and the military is an institution that works because we can divorce ourselves from that emotion.
    You cannot address suicide in any meaningful way unless you are willing to become as emotionally involved in the subject as the people who are looking at it as a perfectly valid option.
    As veterans, and particularly those of us who have seen combat, we learn a set of emotional responses that keep us safe; they keep us from hurting ourselves when we come face to face with the most perfect and beautiful thing in the world: that moment when you know that someone is actually shooting at you. That amazing, hate-filled smile you can feel on your face when you know that you get to shoot back is something that must never be spoken about in public. Nobody could ever understand how wonderful it is when you switch from “safe” to “semi.” If you were to tell your wife about how good recoil feels, you would find divorce papers on the table the next day.
    And if you cannot talk about the emotions of combat, how can you EVER discuss how bad you feel for how good you felt?
    You can NEVER tell another person what it’s like, and if you have felt it, you don’t want to tell anybody. They either know or they don’t.
    Where, in the environment I have described, is there room for discussion?
    There is zero room to discuss the wide range of guilt, hatred, and self-loathing; you can never say why you feel those things, therefore you can never explain why it is RIGHT that you should hate yourself.
    You can never explain why it’s better if you just go.
    Just typing this makes me want to go and chow about 6 percocet with some rum. It’s looking right at me from about 2 meters.
    I don’t want to hit the Post Comment button.
    I don’t want any of you to read this.
    And I keep thinking about the email Nick just sent about a buddy who stepped out last night.

    We can’t ever tell anyone what we’ve done. We can’t get over what we’ve done.
    And when one of these things breaks, we die.

    I don’t know if we can ever address this.

    • leftoftheboom

      September 8, 2013 at 5:34 pm


      Thank you for writing and I think you expressed very well the issues and as you said they are not easy.

      I think you are very right that the military wants to be emotionless to have increased function and that same tactic means we cannot handle what can only be dealt with on an emotional level. We are trained not to feel because if we did, it would be very hard to do what we swore to do.

      The simple fact is that you are a good person and you care and you had to go against that nature to be a warrior. The truth is that All Warriors face that same problem. Some are just not as open about it.

      This is what I learned; maybe it will help.

      For a long time I had blood on my hands that would not wash off. I could not drink it away but it was the only way to sleep. My family hurt. My friends stayed as far away from me as possible like I had a disease, all but for one. He did not do much, he just did not avoid me and he listened. By which I mean I owe him my life. Fortunately I was able to help him too.

      When you hit rock bottom the only direction is up. Bullshit, you can go sideways for a long time.

      I had to relive everything all over again and ask myself what was it exactly that I had wanted; did I want another human being to die? Did I deliberately and with malice, want a family to grieve?
      No, I wanted to win; such a nice sanitary innocent term. To win I had to do what I had trained to do. I don’t even have the justification of saying that a bad person died. Had we been some other place we might have been friends. I don’t know and I will never know. I am alive and they are not.

      That is the thing. For all my life, victory was the thing I wanted. I understood the words that in war people die. I screamed “TO KILL” when I was asked what the spirit of the bayonet was. I may have been naive but not stupid. I understood that I was being conditioned. I thought I was good at being a warrior. I went to the best schools and the military spent a lot of money making sure I was good. And I wanted to be used. I wanted to do the job and I thought I understood what it meant.

      Does a warrior want to high-five after a difficult shot? We do it every time at the range. But in war we feel guilt about it later because this time it was not a plastic target. We don’t imagine the little plastic Ivan’s going into the target shed at night and having their wounds treated by grieving friends. That is why we are trained to use muscle-memory and do things instantly. Because when we look in the sight picture, all we see are little plastic Ivan’s. It is in the aftermath, when we live, and we see the results of our skills, that the idea of a high-five becomes repulsive and we become burdened with guilt.

      So what is the answer? This is mine. The enemy had the same choices that I had. They did not have to join their groups, they did not have to pick up a weapon, and they did not have to fight. We both have the same self-justification and the same responsibility for being there. I was there for my cause. I was not there for me as an individual.

      When I finally managed to judge myself against that reality, some of the guilt faded. Not all the guilt faded. That took much more time. Now only sadness remains. Sadness that lives were lost and remorse that our imperfect world still uses men as instruments to harm other men and that is all you and I were was an instrument because my Nation, no matter how imperfect, is still my Nation and I swore and oath to obey. That my skills, equipment, and training far out surpassed my enemy is something the enemy should have taken into consideration. The minute my Nation warned them, they knew what could happen. They could have surrendered, they could have chosen not to act in violent ways, or they could have laid down their arms. They did not, and that is not your problem or mine.

      I felt the high of being there and I saw the results and the cost. But in the end, I did not send myself to war. At home I train for it and get ready for war again if necessary. And that is the word. We only did what was necessary by the oath we swore and the enemy did the same.

      You own No guilt Murphy. None. But a decent person can be sad for what they have been called upon to do.

      We address it one individual at time and let them know that they can be sad. They can feel remorse. But guilt is not theirs.

  6. Carina M. Lawson- Williams

    September 8, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Murphy- there are those who do critical incident stress debrief and peer counseling in conjunction with the “head shrinks”- they know exactly what you are talking about- most have experienced similiar to what you mention – and there are no divorce papers involved. Our current Brass has forgotten somehow to get these peer counsellors t0gether with their people- it used to be informally done by the legions but a lot of the older veterans can’t relate to modern warfare and that is a failing in our war culture and we are seeing the numbers that prove it. But there is someone you can tell and though you may never fully get over what you have done you can learn ways to accept that it is a part of your life with some peace- but you do have to find the right people to make that happen

  7. Charlie N

    September 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

    As a former SFC and Mustang Officer, I have a plan. I have decided to live as long as possible to become a great pain in the butt to all the people that pissed me off over the decades, this includes incompidentearedship, politicos sand higher ranks, my kids and just butt wipes that caused me grief. So far I have been retired 18 years and spending my checks to do things they will not like. Suicide is a perminent solution to any temporary problem. Revenge makes me feel better about the garbage fed to me. Being around to get back at them is like an itch in a spot they can not reach. That thought makes me smile.

  8. Kristin

    September 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    It breaks my heart to hear that such brave men and women who protect our country are in so much emotional pain that they turn to suicide. My heart and prayers go out to them, if no one has told you thank you and I love u, thank u and I love u 🙂

  9. Mac

    September 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Someone has already touched on one issue we have here with our new generation. A lot of them are not prepared for any reality of hard times. The reality that not everything is rainbows and unicorns when you leave Mom and Dad’s nest. However, we have a second issue that is not being addressed. We also are not teaching our FNGs ways to deal with this new life. We have created barriers between the leaders and the led to keep them from being as knowledgable about that kid’s life as we used to be. We have pushed getting more money for promotions over being mature enough and having leadership skills to actually be able to fulfill that role. This has created a corporate promotion system over promoting someone who has the ability to not only take care of themselves but the young men and women we have entrusted them with.
    I think one thing that would help out with this is to do exactly what my BC in Germany told us when you got promoted to SGT. LTC (Last I looked BG) Shaw said, “You’re new job is to always place your soldiers first and always always always make sure they know you really care about them. Not just as a soldier, but as a person.” I am not promoting a touchy feely system. Just one where people aren’t just numbers or bodies, but people who are just as important to the leader as their own family is.

  10. Doc King

    September 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Leading researchers and healthcare providers have never been more optimistic about HOPE for recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Non-profit organizations and programs geared towards assisting returning Veterans have sprung up across the nation. HOPE has, seemingly, never been more accessible than in this digital age. However, this HOPE is not reaching all veterans. Too many Veterans find it difficult, due to the invisible wounds of war, to seek out assistance and instead withdraw into a place where HOPE seems lost.

    As Combat Veterans, we swore to have each others backs and it’s past time to fulfill that promise. We will take this HOPE to the Veterans who need it, in the form of a (Non-Profit) road-trip Documentary, unscripted and uncensored, in our own language. From the security of their own home, they will be able to follow us on a motorcycle journey across the nation where we interview leading researchers of PTSD/TBI and healthcare providers who passionately believe there is HOPE for recovery. Along the way, we will ride with, talk to and learn from Veterans who have found ways to manage and overcome extreme difficulties.

    Together WE are strong! Join us on facebook at /project22vets

  11. Lt. Tim S.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Suicide is a coward’s way out. It takes more courage to get out of bed every morning.

    • Ashley

      September 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      The majority of suicides are done on a whim, and people are not in the right state of mind.

    • JoeC

      September 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      For a person who is in a sound state of mind and making rational decisions I agree with you. Unfortunately, not many that commit suicide are in their right mind at the time. A few years ago a guy in my neighborhood killed himself. He had the first house at the entrance off of the main road where the bus dropped off the kids after school. He sat in his garage in a lawn chair and waited on the bus to come. As the kids got off the bus and walked past his house he yelled “Hey kids, watch this!”, then put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. That is the sign of a person with a serious emotional malfunction that can’t be depended on to make the right decision on anything. I can’t think of any reason in the world a right minded person would do that. I’m not sure anyone who kills themself could tell you why they did it if given the opportunity. If they had the answers they wouldn’t be in that place to start with.

  12. Jack Krisanda

    September 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Every person in uniform that has been asked to take a life is forever changed by that action! Every person will deal with it differently, but each will be different! It is up to our brothers and sisters in arms to help each other the same way we did on the battlefield! Leave no one behind! If you see a buddy in distress, don’t turn a blind eye. You wouldn’t leave them on the field of battle, would you?

  13. William Groendes

    September 4, 2015 at 2:34 am

    @ Lt Tim, get a grip, idiotic comments like yours keeps individuals that truly need help from getting it every single day. As if the stigma of getting assistance when needed isn’t bad enough, we have some “Sgt Rock wannabe” spouting total B.S.

  14. TIpsy

    September 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Some of the best healing I’ve found is to join a group of my brothers and yes, sisters. We can talk a common language or sometimes the silence and understanding is nice. And to know someone still has my six, well I cannot describe the importance of that. I am a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. In my chapter we decided to take on the growing suicide rate amongst our fellow vets. We found a place in Sauk Centre, MN called the Eagle’s Healing Nest that goes above and beyond to help our brothers and sisters that cannot find the help they need from other sourcs like the VA. Please check out the website – http://www.eagleshealingnest.com/ and their facebook page. I am not soliciting donation!! If you have a friend that needs help or is in a dangerous or very low point in their lives, please contact the Nest and see if they can help. They allow vets to stay as long as possible and they are affordable and in many cases free thanks to the donations of vets groups.

    As a former First Sergeant and having taken several units into the box, the best answer I have for everyone is to get your heads out of the sand and try to get people, who are at risk, the help they need. Yes, it can cost friendships and it can get messy but it is the right thing to do and we all no the easy road is never the right path – its always full of IEDs.

    Thank you for starting this forum. Let us all continue the mission of taking care of soldiers and vets.

    Tipsy (my road name)

  15. Dancer

    September 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    How does one talk about suicide? It depends.

    It depends if you’re a civilian or REMF counselor who has a range of “right” and “wrong” responses, gleaned from “leading peer-reviewed studies”; all of which are based on societally-acceptable situations, and none of which are based on the reality of real people in extreme situations where other people are trying their best to kill you. Then, they talk about it in terms of integration into a society that only understands combat veterans as damaged goods, as PTSD-suffering time bombs. And when one of us decides to check out of the net, they mouth platitudes of regret while breathing secret sighs of relief that we only took ourselves out and didn’t involve others.

    That group does not understand, nor can they understand. They’ve sensitized themselves to the “trauma” of perceived conflict and equate it to the visceral, eyeball vein-popping, endocrine-fueled, primordial triumphs and terrors of combat. How the hell can someone who seriously entertains the concept of: “I got PTSD from being bullied on the internet for my feminist views” actually recalibrate to effectively deal with a guy who walks in and says: “I shot the bastard who killed my buddy and it blew up his satchel charge. I blew his miserable carcass all over the place and I felt awesome!… then I realized I had killed most of an innocent family standing nearby. Now, I can still see the contrast of that red blood against the blue eyes in that little girl’s face from when I closed her eyelids with my fingertips.” Most counselors don’t have the ability to adjust to the SCALE of the shit we’ve been through.

    Most veterans get it though. We UNDERSTAND that there is a feeling of godlike power when you win in a life and death struggle. When you take a human life that is a threat to you and yours, you’re SUPPOSED to get a jolt of “Hell Yeah!” going through your system. It’s nature’s way of telling you that you are worthy to continue living. You are a survivor and you (by definition) come from an unbroken line of survivors, otherwise your line would have died out centuries ago. If nobody has ever told you, I’ll tell you now: You done good! And that feeling is PERFECTLY NORMAL.

    And yeah, you’re right, someone who has never been to the wall, can not understand why it’s right to have felt that way. I will never understand what my wife means when she says “It’s a girl thing”, so why should I expect her to understand when I say “It’s a vet thing”? Yes, she served in her own way by supporting the Army and raising two (mostly) sane kids while I went off to yet another third-world dirthole but she doesn’t “get it” the way the guy who helped me dig a slit-trench while we both had diarrhea “gets it”. Surviving is supposed to feel good, veterans understand this and accept it.

    Note: This is entirely different from some sick bastard feeling good when they murder someone. However, civilians don’t understand this distinction. They continue to preach “thou shalt not kill” instead of the original “thou shalt not murder”. The same Holy Book that tells us not to MURDER tells us whose job it is to take care of business when it comes time to kill the person who murdered a member of your family. His title was “Go’el” or “Blood Avenger” and his divinely assigned job was to kill the guys who needed killing. Society used to understand that killing people, while regrettable, was sometimes necessary, and that the men and women who shouldered this burden for all of society were to be respected. I’m quite sure that some folks have always tinged that respect with some modicum of fear, but that was ok. After all, wolf hounds are extremely capable protectors that are capable of instant violence and should be respected. If the shepherds feared them somewhat, they were more likely to listen when the hound sounded an alarm.

    Now however, the society that raised us conflates the acts of necessary killing with murder and wants us to shoulder unearned guilt for doing what had to be done. Moreover, they interpret their internal fears as something that we are responsible for inflicting on them by our very existence. They seem to think they “have a right to not be afraid” and that the fact that we shake our heads in pity at their cluelessness only reinforces THEIR need to project the responsibility for their fears onto us. I refuse to be party to their blame shifting. I’ve got enough troubles of my own without accepting responsibility for THEIR problems.

    It is my belief that the reason that the WWII generation didn’t have the same level of PTSD issues is that the units that went to war together, came home together on troopships that took weeks to get home. Therefore, they were locked together with a bunch of guys who had “been there and done that” and a whole bunch of beer. Alcohol reduces our innate inhibition against talking about the stuff that’s bothering us. Plus, being all vets, when the discussion got too real, they would bring up something obscene or obnoxious and lighten the mood until it was safe for the conversation to resume. (Counselors don’t understand the importance of this technique, Veterans do.) After a few weeks of talking it out, many had come to terms with what they had HAD TO DO to live long enough to be going home.

    It also helped that units had weekly meetings about normal stuff for weeks after returning. Remember, the National Guard met every week for one night back then. Then it was time for a few beers with the guys who understood where you were coming from. I think this is a vital piece of our readjustment puzzle, we need more time sitting down and having a few beers with somebody else who has been there. This isn’t drinking by yourself at home or at the corner bar, it’s a few beers with someone else who has burned 55 gallon drums of shit with diesel fuel in the middle of a sandstorm and still gets a grin when he hears someone say “Lock and Load” in a movie. It’s therapeutic in a way civilians will never understand.

    I would strongly suggest that EVERY vet get involved with an outfit that gets this. My favorite organization to date is Team Rubicon. http://www.teamrubiconusa.org They do disaster relief at home and abroad and they figured out early on that “Not only are combat vets really good at disaster response but disaster response is really good for combat vets.” The people that run it are combat vets that know what it means to lose a friend to suicide, so they’re not a disaster response organization that uses veteran’s services, they’re a veteran’s service organization that uses disaster response. They get it down deep what it means to be a veteran in search of a mission. They’ve got one that matters and we are ALL welcome to join the team. Look them up, even if you never deploy with them to a local disaster, they’re good people who understand folks like us.

    Keep the faith!

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