According to a study by Tim A. Bullman and Han K. Yang in the Federal Practitioner 12 (3) : 9-13 (March 1995), “…no more than 20,000 Vietnam Veterans died of suicide from the time of discharge through the end of 1993″. However there are others that claim that many more veterans have died of suicide since the Vietnam War. In Chuck Deans’ book, Nam Vet., printed in 1990 by Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, 97226, the author states that “Fifty-eight thousand plus died in the Vietnam War. Over 150,000 have committed suicide since the war ended.” According to this book, Chuck Dean is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the 173rd Airborne, arriving in Vietnam in 1965. At the time the book was written, Mr. Dean was the executive director of Point Man International, a Seattle based, non-profit support organization dedicated to healing the war wounds of Vietnam Veterans.While doing research for his novel, Suicide Wall, Alexander Paul contacted Point Man International and was given the name of a retired VA doctor, and conducted a phone interview with him. In that interview, the doctor related that his estimate of the number of Vietnam Veteran suicides was 200,000 men, and that the reason the official suicide statistics were so much lower was that in many cases the suicides were documented as accidents, primarily single-car drunk driving accidents and self inflicted gunshot wounds that were not accompanied by a suicide note or statement. According to the doctor, the under reporting of suicides was primarily an act of kindness to the surviving relatives.
If the estimate of over 150,000 veterans of the Vietnam War having committed suicide since returning home is true, the figure would be almost three times the number killed in the war. When these deaths are added to the 50,000 plus Vietnam War casualties, the number approaches the 292,000 American casualties of World War II.
The Suicide Wall web site is an attempt to determine how many Vietnam Veterans have actually taken their own lives, as well as a place to memorialize and honor those who served their country, and finally a place which may serve to help prevent suicides in the future. The desire to commit suicide is a temporary, passing emotion, and if it can be prevented, the suicidal person can receive counseling and treatment to prevent the reoccurrence of such feelings.
One Vietnam Veteran, who had been suicidal and wishes to remain anonymous, said, “After reading Suicide Wall, I am determined never to have my name on such a memorial.” It is the hope of PakDonald Publishing and Alexander Paul, that this web site might help others in time of distress.