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Published: Wednesday, 7/6/2011

In a shift, Obama to send condolence letters to families of troops in combat zone suicides


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he's decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while in a combat zone.

The president said the decision was made after an exhaustive review of the previous policy, and was not taken lightly.

"This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn't die because they were weak," Obama said in a written statement. "And the fact that they didn't get the help they needed must change."

The policy had been under review by the White House since 2009 and some military families had pushed for the change. Statistics have shown service member suicides increasing as the U.S. is involved in two wars overseas.

The policy change will apply to troops in combat zones — not to those who commit suicide while stateside, the White House said.

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