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When the suicides started, I felt angry,” Matt Havniear, a onetime lance corporal who carried a rocket launcher in the war, said in a phone interview from Oregon. “The next few, I would just be confused and sad. Then at about the 10th, I started feeling as if it was inevitable — that it is going to get us all and there is nothing we could do to stop it.”

“You come back and try to be a normal kid, but there is always a shadow on you, a dark shadow you can never take away,” Mr. Guerrero, now 28, said in an interview at his home in San Diego.

“Now, when I meet someone, I already know what they look like dead. I can’t help but think that way. And I ask myself, ‘Do I want to live with this feeling for the rest of my life, or is it better to just finish it off?’ ”

He sat down with a therapist, a young woman. After listening for a few minutes, she told him that she knew he was hurting, but that he would just have to get over the deaths of his friends. He should treat it, he recalled her saying, “like a bad breakup with a girl.”

The comment caught him like a hook. Guys he knew had been blown to pieces and burned to death. One came home with shrapnel in his face from a friend’s skull. Now they were killing themselves at an alarming rate. And the therapist wanted him to get over it like a breakup?

“This is good — us here like this,” Mr. Guerrero told his friend. “It’s the times when I’m alone that I fear.”

It was five winding miles to the summit. When they reached it, the two stood side by side catching their breath and looking out at the dawn spreading over the ocean. Mr. Bojorquez hung his arm over his friend’s shoulder. Hummingbirds zipped through the pink light.

Mr. Guerrero broke the silence.

“I’m glad I got to share this with you,” he told his friend. “I wish I could bring the whole battalion up here.”

Dave Philipps ‘In unit stalked by suicide, veterans try to save one anotherThe New York Times

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