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EMOTIONAL TOLL OF WAR

By       Message Mary Lou Brown     Permalink
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In an article dated September 26, 2006, the Charleston Gazette reported that in the past three weeks, two workers from the Sago Mine disaster had taken their own lives.

Acording to the Gazette, mine dispatcher William Chisolm, and John Nelson Boni, a fire boss, shot themselves in separate incidents.

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Chisolm was a dispatcher on duty the morning of the explosion. An alarm had warned Chisolm of possible high levels of carbon monoxide underground. Quoting the Gazette: "Based on that alarm, Chisolm could have stopped miners from going deeper into the mine." But Chisolm thought that the alarm had malfunctioned. Investigators learned later that Sago mine's alarm system frequently malfunctioned, or was misused as a paging device.

Five days before the disaster, Boni found methane building up behind the sealed area. He reported it to the mine foreman, Carl Crumline, but the foreman dismissed the gas as being "no problem." During the Sago investigation, Boni said that mine management had him sign a training form for a class he had never attended.

So instead of 12 miners killed in the explosion, (and one survivor, Randal McCloy), add William Chisolm and John Nelson Boni. They were as surely victims as were their fellow miners killed in the explosion.

What went on in the minds of the men before they killed themselves?" We can only imagine: (Chisolm: "If only I had stopped my buddies from going deeper into the mine!") And (Boni: "Why didn't I get tough with the mine foreman when I found methane, and he dismissed it as not being a problem?")

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"Feelings of guilt; trauma; depression; lingering symptoms of fear and anxiety; marital conflicts": The American Psychiatric Association warns that all of these problems and more can be expected from survivors of disastrous events. If the Sago Mine was a disaster, and 9-11 another, then surely this war in Iraq is not only a disaster, but a shame and disgrace.

Will we be as unprepared for the return of these wounded, traumatized veterans as we were prepared for the aftermath of the original "victory" in Iraq? Will the Commander-in-Chief stand on a battleship to declare a victory when our remaining veterans are home again - bone-tired from too many tours of duty; dazed, traumatized, and without the arms and legs and fresh young minds that carried them into Iraq?

Be prepared, George Bush. The worst is yet to come. But why should you worry? You will probably be back in Crawford, Texas clearing brush by the time our emotionally and physically wounded come home to face the future.

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Former editor of the Plains Georgia Monitor during Carter's presidency: former columnist for the Jessamine Journal, Nicholasville, Ky. WAC veteran; lost a beloved brother in World War II. Supports anti-war efforts to end the killing in Iraq.

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