In memory of SFC. Ben Miller

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Each day a soldier commits suicide in the military.
That trend continues to grow and the Department of Defense is tackling the issue head on. But for some reason, military mental health experts say soldiers are having a difficult time reaching out.
It happened to SFC. Ben Miller. His parents continue to question why it happened.

“When the men come back who have been killed in action, it's terribly sad,” says Vel Carter, Miller’s mother. “They come back as heroes.

Her son did receive a military escort and funeral. But it was after the funeral that Miller's family noticed the military in Utah forgot about him.

“When a suicide soldier comes back they're not recognized,” she says. “My son's a hero too. But when they commit suicide they’re looked at differently.”

She says during annual ceremonies honoring Utah's fallen soldiers, Miller’s name was left off. The snub deepened the pain in a mother's heart.

"March tenth," she says.

It’s the day she remembers. In 2010, Miller got a gun went inside his pickup truck in Fort Riley Kansas and called his wife. The Carter's later get a call from his wife.

“She said 'mom' he shot himself in the head,” Carter recalls. “He's gone. Worse news we could possibly hear.”

Vel carter and Miller's step-father will never know why their son committed suicide.

“I don't want to talk about it,” says Lee Carter.

He weeps openly as he goes back to that day in 2010.
Miller’s mother says her son who served in Iraq never let on.

“The day that he died he gave his wife a list of reasons,” she says. “Some of them were military pressures and some of it were personal.”

Miller was in military intelligence working alongside the NSA, the National Security Agency.
His mother remembers a visit her son had with a doctor.

“The doctor said it sounds like you've got depression and he said ‘no, no, don't you dare put that on my record,’” she says.

His mother says her son knew his career would be over if his superiors knew of this.

“They got flagged and that would be the end of his career,” Carter says.

Dr. Craig Bryan is a psychologist at the University of Utah's National Center for Veterans studies.

“In the military that perception that ‘if I go and get mental health care I won't be promoted, I'll be kicked out’ is very pervasive,” says Dr. Bryan.

Dr. Bryan has produced cutting edge studies for the military on suicides.
Surprisingly, he says combat isn't the main reason for suicides.

“The most common issue was relationship problems,” he says.

Suicides among Utah soldiers continue to rise. The National Guard reports 17 suicides in the past seven years. There's no record of attempted suicides.

“Suicide becomes the perceived coping strategy for the seemingly hopeless, seemingly unending issue,” Dr. Bryan says.

Nationally, the trend is up.

“We are losing in the military about one soldier per day,” says Lt. Col. Gerald White.

The military says it's now being pro-active.
Reslience training at the guard is now a staple. Soldiers who are about to be deployed learn about the problems that can lead to suicide.

“It's not only to help the soldier out, it's assisting all of the soldiers and identifying all of the problems they see in their soldiers,” says Lt. Col White.

Mental health experts like those found at the Veterans Administration hospital are available for former soldiers. But it's up to the soldier to seek help.
Dr. Bryan says a soldier can never erase the memories tied to PTSD. But he says a psychologist can show the soldier how to deal with it through strength and courage.

Sgt. Manny Talamantez did seek help when he returned from Afghanistan.

“A soldier can definitely bounce back,” says Sgt. Talamantez. “I have and I have been able to make everything in my life better."

But a former soldier who attempted suicide emailed ABC4 claiming: "The soldiers aren't discharged because of PTSD. They are discharged because of behavioral problems."

Military leaders say it does happen.

“The guard is a family and we just don't write people off,” says Lt. Col. Hank McIntire. “We do everything we can to help them because if we have someone leave our ranks for whatever reason, we're losing a member of our family."

For SFC Miller's family it's little consolation. They still blame the military. And now they want others to know of their unsung hero.

“He had 33 years of a wonderful life and had one bad afternoon that was bad enough that it ended it all,” says his mother Vel Carter.

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