On Assignment: Suicide in the National Guard for the New York Times

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HQ of the 1451st Transportation Company, Boone, NC.

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Lawrence Parker is the father of 1st Sergeant Roger Parker, who took his own life after returning from Iraq and losing 2 of the men in his unit.

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Jennifer Wilson is the younger sister of Sgt. Jeff Wilson, who committed suicide after the deaths of 2 men in his unit in Iraq.

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A memorial for the fallen soldiers from the 1451st Transportation Company, Boone, NC.

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Elaine Hafner is the mother of Sgt. Jeff Wilson, who committed suicide after returning from Iraq and losing 2 friends just weeks before the end of their tour.

A few months ago, I worked on a story for the New York Times about a North Carolina National Guard unit, the 1451st Transportation Company, out of Boone, that had 4 of their soldiers commit suicide after returning from a tour in Iraq where they lost 2 men less than 2 weeks before returning home. The story focuses primarily on Sgt. Jacob Blaylock, but I met with the father, mother and sister of 2 of the fallen soldiers, 1st Sgt. Roger Parker and Sgt. Jeff Wilson, all of whom reside in western North Carolina. It was one of the hardest stories I have worked on from an emotional stand point. Even a year or more after the deaths of their children, the parents and siblings still have a pronounced sense of loss and some anger as to why their sons and brother were not better looked after by the Army. Not enough counseling or mental care and contact after they returned from war after losing 2 friends just weeks before heading home.

I just want to thank the Hafners, Parkers and Wilsons for inviting me to their homes to share their stories about their sons and brothers with me. Without strong families like them, these men would have been all the more lost and I hope this story will help the military get a handle on what they need to do to keep this from happening again.

Read it all here, see the slideshow here, more photos here.

See more photos related to the effects of the wars in the Middle East on the US here.

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