Demographics of deceased service members: Understanding those who served and their families

In the ten years after 9/11/2001, approximately 16,000 uniformed service members died on active-duty status. Few studies have investigated the impact that service member death has had on military families (Cozza, Chun, & Polo, 2005). To better serve these families, we need to understand the characteristics of the population and how these service members died, especially since violent deaths have been related to PTSD and the persistence of depression symptoms (Kaltman & Bonanno, 2003). Causes of death (e.g., illnesses, accidents, combat-related deaths) and the characteristics of the population of service members who died within ten years after 911 (n=15,941) and their families (e.g., family composition, location, military component and rank) were examined. Most deceased service members were males who were 21 years-old (mean 29 years). More than half the deaths occurred in the United States (a combination of illnesses, accidents, gunshots, etc.), and about one-third occurred in either Iraq or Afghanistan (mostly combat-related). Roughly one-third of the 16,000 service members had two children. Thus, more than 10,000 children had a parent service member die during this period. Additional demographics of these service members and their families are discussed in the context of providing services that target these survivors.