A 7,000-Mile Sniper Shot

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Marine Corps photo by Sgt Michael A. Blaha

Marines in Anbar Province, Iraq, in 2005

Jeff Hackett died in the war. He was a career Marine, a mustang who rose through the enlisted ranks to become a gunnery sergeant, then through the officer ranks to become a major. In Iraq, Jeff led a highly specialized unit of Marines searching and destroying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they could kill other Marines. It was tough, dangerous work. Eight of his Marines died on the mission.

When he came home from Iraq, Jeff Hackett wasn’t right. His behavior was erratic, especially to friends who had known him for years. He left the service and drifted from job to job, when he could find work. Eventually, he was doing manual labor in Wyoming. He felt like a failure, a joke. He killed himself. And then, if you can believe it, things got even worse.

Jeff wasn’t able to keep up the payments on his Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) policy after he retired. He paid in full each month of the 26 years he served in the Marine Corps. But afterwards, because he missed a few payments when he was struggling, the insurance company refused to pay off.

Hackett was only one of an average of 18 veterans who killed themselves that day almost two years ago. He died in a parking lot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. But in my book, his suicide might as well have been a 7,000-mile sniper shot. Jeff Hackett died in the war. And the damned insurance company ought to pay what it owes his family.

Read more about Jeff Hackett and the efforts to take care of his family in this Washington Post article by Greg Jaffe.


President Obama's budget is coming this week. If he has not included funding to pay the insurance claims for our war veterans - including the thousands of suicides that are the result of PTSD, then Mr. Obama should be ashamed to run again for the Oval Office. It is the President's direct responsibility as Commander-in-Chief to see that the VA takes care of ALL wounded veterans - psychological wounds included. If Mr. Obama wants my vote, then let him order the payment of the $400,000 claim to Mrs. Hackett - and all of the other war widows waiting for justice. If he does not do this then he does not deserve re-election. And while he's at it, let him fire those heartless bureons (my term for bureaucratic morons) currently leading the VA and appoint agency leaders who actually give a damn. 
Let those who would have us extend the war in Afghanistan or start a new war with Iran put their money first into veterans' health care and insurance compensation -- just as they would have us pay billions up front for more weapons of war. The President and Congress love to give eloquent speeches about how wonderful it is that our service men and women risk their lives to protect and serve. It is a disgusting tragedy that our elected leaders -- every last one of them on both sides of the aisle -- have not lifted a finger to assure justice for our veterans and their families. Disgusting.

- Tom from


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