Purple heartache

Sep 8, 2010 at 12:00 am

When last we checked on Royal Oak resident Tom Mahany, he was recovering from a nearly month-long hunger strike he'd conducted in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to draw attention to the problems faced by soldiers being subjected to repeated deployments in war zones, known as "stop loss." ("Fast times in Washington, D.C.," Dec. 16, 2009.)

The stop loss issue appears to have been largely dealt with. As USA Today reported in August, "The number of Army soldiers forced to serve beyond their commitment has been cut in half in the past year and is on track to be eliminated by March 2011, Pentagon records and interviews show."

Even before that turn of events, though, Mahany had begun shifting his focus slightly. He protested the stop loss program, in large part, because of the association between repeated deployments and post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the consequences connected with PTSD is an increased risk of suicide.

"A large body of research indicates that there is a correlation between PTSD and suicide," reports the National Center for PTSD, which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Earlier this summer, the Army released a report dealing with the problem of soldiers committing suicide, which has reached startling proportions.

Which is why Mahany had a tent at the corner of Austin and North Main streets outside the House on Main art gallery in Royal Oak during the Arts, Eats and Beats festival last weekend (and will continue for the rest of the month). 

A stonemason, Mahany is also an artist, and he was selling some of his work to raise funds for the Stop the Loss Foundation he launched last year. He was also gathering petition signatures in support of a new effort: Convincing the U.S. military to award Purple Hearts to victims of PTSD. Mahany believes that the medals, traditionally given to soldiers suffering physical wounds, would help boost the morale and self-esteem of PTSD sufferers and, in doing so, make it easier to deal with the many problems associated with the affliction.

"Visible honors for invisible wounds" is our motto, Mahany says.

If you are interested in enlisting in the effort, see the group's website at stopthelossfoundation.org.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]