Two cadets, among 1,000 seniors isolated at the Air Force Academy, committed suicide within days from each other amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This has rattled the service from the senior leadership to its trainees. Unlike other branches, the Air Force has kept cadets on campus. The cadets have been socially distancing in single rooms, away from their roommates since the start of March.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria wrote to cadets, their families, staff, and alumni: “I am heartbroken to confirm that since Thursday we have mourned the loss of two of our First-Class cadets here on our campus, and our entire Academy community is understandably shaken.”

The Air Force on Friday said that 137 airmen had committed suicide in 2019. That is roughly a 33 percent increase over the previous year. That means that 59 airmen and civilians have killed themselves since the Air Force sounded the alarm on August 1st regarding the spike in suicide deaths and declared a one-day stand-down to focus on resiliency and suicide prevention.

The previous year was the most devastating in suicide numbers in well over a decade. The Air Force did not further break out the 137 number, but leaked Air Force slides posted on the unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, which listed the 2019 tally as 136, said that 84 active-duty airmen, 24 civilians, 14 reservists, and 14 Air Guardsmen had killed themselves last year.

But the suicide problem is even grimmer in the veteran community.

There are 18 million veterans living in the U.S. today — 8 percent of the population. They are predominantly male (92 percent), though the number of female veterans is on the rise.

We have all seen the campaign to stop the veteran suicides (22 a day). But are they just 22? And has this rate risen over the years? The water gets very muddy, depending on the source. To me, this should be easy to track with the VA. However, not all vets are in the VA system, and this wouldn’t include active duty, guard, or reserve personnel that commits suicide.

The veteran population has experienced an increase in the number of suicides, according to the VA. The number of veteran suicide deaths per year increased from 5,787 in 2005 to 6,139 in 2017. The annual number of veteran suicide deaths has stayed above 6,000 since 2008. The yearly number of veteran suicide deaths increased by 129 from 2016 to 2017. With 330 million people in the U.S., this doesn’t even hit anyone’s radar. (The number of veteran suicides per year was the lowest in 2006 and the highest in 2014.)