You must have heard of the superhero Captain America, part of the Marvel universe. But ask people in the 82nd Airborne and Ranger Regiment of US Army, and their Captain America was not a shield bearing fictional character in a movie series. He was a real man who went by the name Master Sergeant Andrew Christian Marckesano.
Sadly, this highly decorated and respected officer in the army is no more. He died by suicide at his home in Washington DC on Monday, June 6. Even more tragically, the Green Beret ended his life in front of his wife. He is also survived by three children, all still very young.
Master Sergeant Marckesano earned the respect of his fellow soldiers with his exemplary record of service. The recipient of the prestigious Silver Star made six service tours of Afghanistan. But that wasn't all. He was deployed in six more combat tours in a foreign land.
With such a distinguished CV, it was no surprise that Marckesano was chosen for an important role in the Pentagon. Having recently moved to the nation's capital, people around him would have hoped for a less stressful life for the Green Beret.
Scars of battles
However, last Monday, he had dinner with the leader of his former battalion and then returned home, only to end his life there. According to Fox News, what may have made the soldier take this extreme step was serving with the 2-508 battalion in 2009. It was posted in the Arghandab valley of Afghanistan and suffered heavy casualties.
How troubled he would have been internally could be gauged by the fact that he actually wrote a passionate letter to members of this battalion inviting them to seek help if they need.
"Text me, I told you before my door is open... my phone is at hand. We did things that people make movies about and in some cases, writers and producers wouldn't even try to write our story... the rucksack is heavy... and when it gets heavy, we... help each other, but you have to reach out... Don't let the Valley win."
Epidemic of suicides
Sadly, while extending a helping hand to other servicemen, he was becoming prey to his inner demons. This is not the first case of an army man from this battalion ending his life. Shockingly, Marckesano is the 30th person from 2-508 to complete suicide. What's worse, 20 veterans who have partaken in combat operations are dying by suicide, every day, on average.
This reveals the dire need for help that many serving and retired men in US defence forces need. The Trump administration has acted by creating a President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Task Force to deal with this crisis. It was officially launched last month at the White House.
Afghanistan is now regarded as the longest war in the USA's history. While it has taken its toll in terms of casualties of defense personnel and economic drain, the psychological harm it has caused to veterans also merits serious attention.