SEATTLE -- Since the first of July, five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have died in apparent suicides, part of an Army-wide upsurge in such deaths despite stepped-up prevention efforts.
Their memorial services came so close together that one bereaved mother, at a hotel in DuPont where the Army had her stay, encountered another couple struggling with the loss of their son.
"This is just too much in too short a time," said Karrie Champion, whose 21-year-old son, Spc. Jonathon Gilbert, died July 28. "This is just not right."
In recent weeks, commanders have met with soldiers stricken by grief over the passing of their comrades, and a recent directive at the base put a heightened focus on an Army-wide effort to reduce suicides.
The Army suicide rate has nearly doubled during a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has seen more-frequent overseas deployments for soldiers and a broader range of recruits.