We all know that one of the costs of war is the damage done to our soldiers who come home, whole on the outside, but severely damaged on the inside. The business of killing and being shot at by those who wish us dead is fundamentally at odds with what most of us have experienced or been taught. Is it any wonder that normal young men and women, taken from quiet, stable families and thrown into the hell of war often come back permanently damaged? Some can be treated with therapy and understanding. Others, like 23-year-old Miles Bigham of Columbia, S.C., were either too damaged or not diagnosed with depression or PTSD in time to same them. Bigham committed suicide last October. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans between the ages of 18 and 29 has gone up 26 percent from 2005 to 2007.
Here is the story of how Bigham's family has dealt with their loss. See the whole account in The State newspaper at
Mills Bigham was a 19-year-old Marine in Iraq when he made his first kill.
While on a foot patrol, someone hurled a grenade at Bigham's squad. Bigham, who was at the point, turned and fired.
"I pulled the trigger quickly, twice. Pop ... pop," the Columbia Marine wrote in his journal.
Two bullets hit the attacker's chest, knocking him to the ground. Within minutes, he was dead. The grenade was a dud.
Bigham checked the attacker's identification.
He was 12.
Less than four years later on Oct. 19, Lance Cpl. Mills Palmer Bigham sat in his red Chevy Tahoe, put a .410-gauge shotgun to his forehead and pulled the trigger one last time.
He was 23.