60 Minutes: Military Suicides
Suicide is among the leading causes of death for military service members, surpassing those who died in combat in 2009. Veteran suicides are up to an estimated 22 per day. To illustrate one of their stories, Byron Pitts reported on “The Life and Death of Clay Hunt." Though there has been some talk about mental health care surrounding gun control debates, it seems like it mental health is also a critical service for those leaving military duty.
60 Minutes: Clay Hunt Haiti
Clay Hunt, who loved being a Marine, had been out of the service for two years at the time of his death. But Pitts reported that Hunt was “a casualty of war." At age 27, he had ambitions to change the world for the better.
He visited Haiti in early 2010 to help with hurricane recovery. He later said that the experience was positive for him, because he could contribute without having to worry about being shot. While in active duty, he earned a Purple Heart.
60 Minutes: Clay Hunt Iraq
Jake Wood was one of Hunt’s best friends in the service. In a video interview, Hunt referred to Wood as his brother. What did Wood make of his friend’s suicide?
“He was smart. He was good-looking, charismatic…. He was the all-American kid," Wood said. They first deployed to Iraq in 2007, and Hunt would recall that this mission changed his life.
Two of his friends were killed in the first few months, and he witnessed at least one of the deaths without being able to intervene. His mother recalled that he could not get the memories out of his head.
60 Minutes: Clay Hunt Parents
Stacy Hunt and Susan Selke, his parents, knew that he was having a difficult time with the “guilt and grief." His father Stacy recalled that it had a deep and profound effect on their son.
Hunt was eventually shot through the wrist by a sniper. That meant he was sent back to base in California to recover, but that separation only made his problems worse.
60 Minutes: Ex-Military PTSD & Suicide
Jake Wood said that it is “maddening" not to be able to be in control or do your part to help. Hunt got a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with insomnia and panic attacks.
Wood said that Hunt felt judged because his colleagues knew about his condition. But he trained with a sniper unit alongside Wood. His friend said that Hunt could not avoid looking at the bigger picture of the war they were engaged in.
“He had to justify that, and when those doubts start to creep in your mind, that’s when you start to lose your mind," Wood said.
60 Minutes: Team Rubicon
Hunt left the Marine Corps disillusioned in 2009, and came back to an America that seemed oblivious to world events and the callous attitude of most Americans.
Wood invited Hunt and other veterans on a relief mission to Haiti, and a later trip to Haiti. They formed Team Rubicon, a veteran organization that lets military service members put their military skills to use for disaster to relief.
60 Minutes: Veterans VA Benefits
In his personal life, Hunt ended up getting divorced from his wife and searched for effective medication to manage his PTSD. He also appeared in an MTV interview about his depression and going to college after deployment.
He had financial difficulties waiting to have his VA benefits approved, adding even more stress to his life. His parents said that he relied on credit cards to bridge the gap, leading to more frustration.
60 Minutes: Ride 2 Recovery with John Wordin
Hunt’s outlet was cycling, and he had the chance to meet a professional, John Wordin. By fall 2010, he dropped out of college and ended up living with Wordin.
The cyclist recalled seeing hopelessness in his eyes, and said that Hunt expressed that he should have died at war. Wordin created Ride 2 Recovery to help veterans cope and find friendship among those who can relate to their struggles.
The physical activity is also intended to wear people out physically to improve the chances that they can get the sleep so many of them struggle with.
Wordin said that the physical activity lets their guard down, and they “find that they have a way to overcome" what they are facing. He said that Hunt seemed to enjoy the program, and would look forward to the group’s next event.
60 Minutes: Clay Hunt Suicide
Hunt seemed to be getting his life back together and had returned to his home in Texas. But, still haunted by the mental scars of war, Hunt shot himself in the head at age 28.
His father said he never imagined suicide for his child. But his mother said that depression and anxiety can “take you down" when unchecked. Next, the survivor’s guilt transferred from Clay to his friends and family.
60 Minutes: Suicide Survivor’s Guilt
His best friend, Wood, said that he struggles with the “what ifs" every day, and his parents blame themselves for not seeing the full extent of what their son was going through.
“Do I blame myself occasionally for Clay’s death? Absolutely," Wood said. “That brotherhood doesn’t stop. It doesn’t end."
60 Minutes: Postwar PTSD
Wood also admitted that he blames Clay sometimes for not being around to be a part of his life. He will miss his sniper partner at his upcoming wedding.
Wordin also felt some blame, because he wanted to be there for Hunt. In his work over the past five years, Wordin said that he has met hundreds who are grappling with stress, depression, and PTSD after war.
In an interview during one of his relief projects, Clay Hunt had this to say: “We’re doing good things for our country, and I think we deserve a lot better, coming home as veterans."