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FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -
"I heard about it and I don't want to go outside, I'm scared. The neighbors told me go inside. I'm just scared," Veronica Arabia said.
Veronica Arabia lives just two houses down from where 22–year–old Elias Monge walked outside last Wednesday, pistol–grip shotgun in hand, and Fresno police say, wouldn't give up until they shot him, in what became an apparent suicide–by–cop.
"Yeah it worries me," Arabia said.
Monge was a member of the 1106th AVCRAD unit in Fresno.
It's a National Guard helicopter maintenance facility.
And recently it's seen a disturbing trend.
Monge is the fourth member of that unit to allegedly commit suicide since May 2010.
"We're more shocked and concerned that so many soldiers are dying by suicide," 1st Lieutenant William Martin said. "Really one is more than we'd like to see, so three or four is definitely well more than we'd like to see at any particular unit."
464 soldiers make up the 1106th AVCRAD unit. And military officials tell KMPH News their mental health is a top priority.
"We have full–time staff members who do nothing but train units and individuals on how to train their soldiers regarding these issues. We deal with prevention and also intervention," Martin said.
Things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, are often big concerns for soldiers who've come home from combat and are struggling with their mental health.
But three of the four members of this unit who committed suicide were never even deployed.
"If they were all multiply–deployed soldiers, obviously it would be easier to say obviously combat played a huge role. But these are your traditional national guardsmen, by that I mean, they typically train once a month and maybe a few weeks during the summer. So their units didn't have a big influence on their lives overall as far as day to day living," Martin said.
For Monge's neighbor, Veronica, whatever the reason for any of the suicides, she says, it's sad all around.
"We have to take care of our military. They're not supposed to be in danger," Arabia said.
Military officials tell KMPH News, next month they'll be holding what's called a "suicide stand–down" across the entire California National Guard.
It will consist of intensely focused suicide prevention training.
Military officials also say about 100 soldiers from the 1106th AVCRAD will be deployed to Afghanistan in the beginning of 2013.
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