On March 7, 2007, Army Spc. Trevor Hogue was inside his barracks in Baghdad, describing his morning on the battlefield.
"I saw things today that I think will mess me up for life," Hogue typed to his mother, Donna, as she sat at her computer thousands of miles away from Iraq, in Granite Bay.
That day the young soldier, whose assignment included driving a Humvee through perhaps the most dangerous ZIP code on the globe, saw his sergeant blown to pieces. He saw the bodies of half of the men in his platoon torn apart. Heads were cut off and limbs severed. It happened 30 yards in front of him, and he had never been so afraid, he told his mom.
"My arms are around you," Donna Hogue wrote. "You'll be alright."
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But Hogue never really recovered. Last week, he committed suicide by hanging himself in the backyard of his childhood home. He was 24 years old.
According to the Army, soldiers are killing themselves at the highest rate in nearly three decades, surpassing the civilian suicide rate for the first time since the Vietnam War.
At least 128 U.S. soldiers killed themselves last year, a number that has risen four years in a row. The death toll could be even higher this year. Through April, 91 soldiers had committed suicide.
Hogue's death, because it occurred after he was discharged, is not included in those statistics. But his friends and loved ones believe he was a casualty of war as much as any soldier on active duty.
"You think that they are safe when they get back home," Donna Hogue said, tearfully reading printed messages that she and her son exchanged while he was at war. "They're not. The reality of the things that they experienced continues to haunt them."
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