Even after covering the tragic final chapters in the lives of so many U.S. military personnel in Iraq or veterans back home, I found the brutally frank opening line in an obituary from four days ago particularly haunting: "Donald P. Christy, Lt. Col, USAF, passed away April 21, 2008 in Colorado Springs after an extended bout of anxiety and depression."
Further on, the obit mentioned that in 2004 "Don served a tour of duty as the Deputy Commander at Baghdad Airport in Iraq" -- which, as we now know, must have been one of the most stressful jobs in all of Iraq at that time, in light of insurgent attacks and the controversy over interrogation techniques practiced there.
I don't know yet how Christy died, but this comes on the heels of a Veterans Administration cover-up of the shockingly high number of suicide attempts by vets (1000 a month) and a Rand Corp. study revealing that 300,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan now suffer from various mental problems. I've followed this issue carefully for five years now and it figures prominently in my new book on Iraq and the media.
The Christy obit, which presumably was composed by his family (he leaves parents, two sons, an ex-wife) was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette last Thursday, and picked up by Legacy.com, which also carries a tribute board. Christy was 42. Internment is taking place this morning with full military honors at the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the charity of choice.
Christy hailed from Johnson City, N.Y., and his obit explains that after returning to the U.S. following his Baghdad Airport posting, "he attended the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and was then reassigned to the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs."
Among the tributes at Legacy.com is one that is directed directly to him by a man from Foster City, Ca., who served with him:
"Don, It seems like yesterday that you and I were young lieutenants in Grand Forks. Back then your greatest worry was which video game you could borrow from me. I'm sorry that I lost touched over the years.
"I'm also sorry to hear that your life was in turmoil. My prayers are with you and your family. RIP my friend. I hope you have found peace and may your family find solace in this difficult time. As with your family's wishes, I will be making a donation to a charity in your name."
And a woman from Texas writes to Christy's mom: "I too lost my son to depression. Mother to mother I know this loss is so very great. I will keep you family in my prayers and know that Donald is in the arms of the angels."
Greg Mitchell's new book includes several chapters on this subject. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq, and it has been hailed by Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, Arianna H and others.