What is behind the flurry of U.S. military deaths in Hawaiʻi?

Recently, U.S. soldiers died in Hawaiʻi in a series of accidents and reckless activities.  Yesterday, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Motorcyclist, 23, killed in H-1 crash is identified as Schofield soldier” (January 22, 2013):

A man killed in a motorcycle crash on Sunday was identified as Trevor McGurran, 23, of Wahiawa.

Military officials said McGurran was stationed at Schofield Barracks, and was a member of the 715th Military Intelligence Battalion, which is attached to the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade.

Recently, Police shot and killed another soldier who was driving recklessly in Waikiki and rammed several police cars. The Star Advertiser reported “Havoc in Waikiki ends in GI’s death”  (January 16, 2013):

A Schofield Barracks soldier was shot multiple times and killed by police after he drove a large pickup truck recklessly through the streets of Waikiki early Tuesday and disregarded repeated orders by police officers to stop.

Three officers were injured when the truck rammed their vehicles. They were treated for minor injuries at a hospital and released.

The incident began just before 4 a.m. and involved two shooting scenes: on Kuhio Avenue near Nahua Street, and on Ala Wai Boulevard between Lewers and Kai­olu streets.

The Army confirmed that the driver of the dark blue Dodge truck involved in the incident was an enlisted soldier assigned to the 25th Infantry Division.

On January 12, a hiker , identified as 27-year-old Mililani resident Michael Harlan, died after falling at the Makapuʻu lighthouse trail.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Fall at Makapuu Lighthouse proves fatal to hiker” (January 13, 2013):

A 27-year-old man who fell approximately 30 feet Saturday while hiking along the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail died Sunday.

The man, believed to be in the military and stationed here, climbed to an area outside the actual trail above the  lighthouse on Saturday afternoon, then lost his footing and fell, according to Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. James Todd.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon reported that military suicides reached a record high in 2012. The AP reported “Military Suicides Reached Record High In 2012” (January 14, 2013):

Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year, far exceeding American combat deaths in Afghanistan, and some private experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse this year.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with the suicides, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called an epidemic. The problem reflects severe strains on military personnel burdened with more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of a shrinking force.

Pentagon figures obtained Monday by The Associated Press show that the 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year were up from 301 the year before and exceeded the Pentagon’s own internal projection of 325.

It begs the question whether the psychological and social pressures of the wars are causing soldiers to engage in dangerous behavior.  And it also suggests that the human and social costs of U.S. military policies may be much higher and persistent than can be captured in a superficial economic report.

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