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The World | Showdown with Iraq

Apparent Suicide Raises Stress Fears

March 17, 2003

The apparent suicide of a Marine at an outpost near the Iraqi border has raised new concerns about the stress on troops as they wait for war.

Details about the incident were only beginning to emerge Sunday. The young man's name was being withheld pending notification of his family, and investigators did not say what might have prompted him to shoot himself at approximately 6 a.m. Thursday.

In the hours after the body was discovered, a ranking officer with the 1st Marine Division gathered his troops and told them that religious and counseling services were available.

"They need to release the anxiety and stress so they can stay focused on their mission," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Bodley, a chaplain with the division. "They can either let the situation conquer them or, as Marines, they can learn to adapt and overcome."

That situation affects American and British forces throughout the Middle East who have waited through weeks of diplomatic haggling that will decide whether they attack Iraq.

The delay gives them a chance to review procedure and run drills. It also leaves time -- too much time, some say -- for lying on cots, reading magazines and thinking ahead.

As one Navy airman put it, "The stress is from not knowing what's going to happen or when." Each camp or vessel in the Persian Gulf has faced a unique set of expectations and frustrations.

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