Writing an obituary for a soldier who committed suicide can be difficult, and the families of many veterans simply prefer to keep the details of their loved one’s death private. But as Anna Rodriguez explains in this audio clip, she was fundamentally uncomfortable with what she felt was a sugarcoated description of Nick’s death in the obituary written for the local paper.
What Nick’s funeral director did is common; military suicides are rarely identified as such at funerals and in community papers. But while these soldiers’ deaths are at least mentioned in local papers, they are generally not included in memorials published in national media.
The New York Times continues to publish the names of some fallen soldiers, and in 2012 crafted a multimedia memorial, Faces of the Dead. However, Faces of the Dead (which was last updated in late 2012), included only service members that were included on official Department of Defense (DOD) casualty lists. Since Lance Corporal Rodriguez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at Camp Pendleton in California, and not in combat, his name was not included in the DOD list.
Because DOD has only recently stepped up efforts to track military suicides, it’s unclear how many other victims may have been omitted from Faces of the Dead and other media memorials. It’s a situation which has helped keep the escalating rates of military suicide under the country’s radar for years.
DOD “combat casualty” lists also often affect which veterans’ names are included on military memorials. Visit our Honoring Military Suicide Victims page for a short video on Anna’s wish to have Nick’s name engraved at a nearby Pennsylvania memorial, and an explanation of the inclusion policies of many major veterans memorials.