Army promotes suicide awareness with former soldier serving life sentence for massacre

Robert Bales pleaded guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians.

U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper marked the occasion by sending a Facebook message on Saturday to “encourage the entire Army community to support each other and encourage individuals to seek help.”

Task & Purpose noted Esper’s message was accompanied by an image of Robert Bales, the former Army staff sergeant who is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians in 2012.


Esper’s Facebook post was deleted, but no explanation has been provided for the decision to use a mass murderer to raise awareness about suicide prevention. According to McClatchy, Bales left his base in Kandahar on March 11, 2012 “and headed to a nearby village, where he killed four people, including a child, and assaulted six others. He returned to base for more ammunition before walking to another village, where he killed a dozen more, mainly women and children, in their beds.”

The New York Times described the testimony against Bales in a military courtroom in 2012:

“Their brains were still on the pillows,” said Mullah Khamal Adin, 39, staring into the camera with his arms folded on the table, describing the 11 members of his cousin’s family he found dead in the family compound — most of the bodies burned in a pile in one room.

Mr. Adin, in a hearing that started here late Friday, was asked about the smell. Was there an odor of gasoline or kerosene?

Just bodies and burned plastic, he replied through a translator.

GQ interviewed Bales in 2015:

“I shot the kid.” He pauses. “Um.” Pauses again. “It was a quick reaction. You know, to be honest, you know—I hate it. I hate it. Every day, I think about it all the time.” Pause. “At this point, I just kind of turned and killed the man [Nazir Mohamed]. And pretty much after that it was autopilot.”

Bales’ lawyer has said his client could seek clemency from President Donald Trump.