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U.S. Combat Deaths Down in Iraq -- But Soldier Suicides Continue

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Despite the overall drop in U.S. deaths in Iraq there has been a spate of "noncombat" fatalities there in the past week -- including a female soldier who was accidentally shot by a colleague who was cleaning a weapon. Also, Iraq vets (some who may be set to return there) continue to kill themselves at home at an alarming rate.

The latest example in that latter group was reported this morning.

The 21-year-old Army National Guardsman from Iowa, Jake Clements, had served a tour in Iraq and was likely heading backing there. He was on the cell phone with his former girlfriend when he fatally shot himself in the basement of her home in Holmen, Wisc., late Friday -- while she was upstairs -- officials said.

From the local paper: "He said he wanted to see her one last time, he was sorry and he loved her. When she asked what he was talking about, she heard a loud bang, according to the report."

Police found Clements' body in the basement, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A .45-caliber Springfield gun was still in his hand, loaded with five live rounds of ammunition, including one in the chamber, according to the report. A partially consumed bottle of wine also was found, but no suicide note.

Holmen police Chief Mike McHugh said his department was working with the military to investigate the incident. Clements is thought to have returned from Iraq a few months ago, he said, and speculation was he might soon be headed back.

There was no forced entry into the home and it was presumed Clements still had a key to the home, officials said.

Here's the link.

Greg Mitchell's new book contains several chapters on soldier suicides. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.