Michael's Dispatches

Soldier did Not Commit Suicide

mark-farah-1000Major Mark Bieger with Farah. (Mosul, Iraq, May 2005.)

27 September 2012

Through time, numerous people have asked me if Mark Bieger committed suicide a couple of years after this photograph was made. The answer is NO.

At first, I dismissed the rumor because it seemed random and small. Yet apparently many people believe this. Another person just asked. The answer remains absolutely not. I talked with Mark’s wife early in the year.  He is doing fine, as expected.

Colonel Bieger is rock solid. An email came from his excellent wife just minutes before this went live.  Mark has a stellar reputation as a man, and a Soldier.  We can only hope that he makes General. We need some Biegers with Stars.  Mark Bieger is one of the best and most solid men you will ever meet.  He is one of those men who lives up to what it means to be a Great American.


This photo says all that you need to know about his character.  His wife, Amy, told me some years ago that she recognized him instantly in the photo on television because that is the way he often held their own children.  Mark’s reputation for courage and competence in combat matches this image of his compassion.

A kind reader informed me that there was a similar photograph taken earlier in the war, and that the Soldier in that photograph was reported to have died from an overdose.  For more.

Apparently this has led to the honest mix-up of the events and people.

For an account of the day with Mark and Farah.


+4 # RE: Soldier did Not Commit SuicideTravis 2012-09-27 14:30
Having two kids of my own (6yrs old and 2yrs old) this photo always hits home with me. I have great respect for Colonel Bieger and I don't enven know him. The planet needs more people like him! God bless him and his family!
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+3 # Historic PhotoJacob Theodore 2012-09-27 14:30
Michael, there are certain pictures of war that become iconic. There was the flag raising over Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing the girl in Times Square, the young Vietnamese girls running with napalm burns, and now this photo of Major Bieger
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+4 # RE: Soldier did Not Commit SuicideTexas2Step 2012-09-27 14:36
I have read a few news stories that mentioned Col. Bieger, and he is indeed a selfless soldier and a strong leader; the best of the American military. We saw the depth of his character when he tried to save little Farah. I pray that he will retire safe and whole, to many years with his family.

Too many soldiers, though, are going the way of Spc. Dwyer. They live the horrors of combat in a war that seems to have less and less purpose every day. Combat has to be hard on everyone who endures it, and some will cope better than others, but when the war does not have a clear goal or a supportable purpose, what the troops do, see and endure must seem, ultimately, pointless to them. I believe that is one of the reasons for the great increase in the rate of suicide among troops and vets. It's time for us to get out of Afghanistan.
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+3 # Thanks!leyla 2012-09-27 14:36
That photo speaks volumes!
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+3 # Thanks!WENDI PHILLIPS 2012-09-27 15:01
So glad to hear Col.Bieger is doing well.
Our army needs more leaders like him
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+4 # incredible photoPete 2012-09-27 15:04
Defense of the helpless must certainly be one of the most important elements of a soldier's conduct and this photo clearly demonstrates that behavior.
I am still surprised this photo didn't win the Pulitzer prize for photojournalism .
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+4 # no suicideJimD 2012-09-27 15:04
thanks for the update - I read about the major's "suicide" - nice to know the story is not true - keep up the good reporting
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+2 # RE: Soldier did Not Commit SuicideHeath 2012-09-27 15:23
Glad he is still with his family and prayers go with the girl's family in Iraq.
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+4 # Suicide Prevention Monthin_awe 2012-09-27 16:01
September is Suicide Prevention Month and the military branches have been doing a lot of outreach this month encouraging anyone - active duty or retired - to seek help for PTSD and depression.

As a nation we MUST shoulder the financial burden to provide help to all our veterans - the cost of war must include the cost for medical/psychol ogical care when they come home.
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+3 # RE: Suicide Prevention MonthTexas2Step 2012-09-27 16:45
I could not agree more. We owe the troops whatever care they need, short-term or for life, and no debt should be more gladly paid.
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+2 # RE: Soldier did Not Commit Suicidetim scherer 2012-09-27 17:30
I have heard this same rumor numerous times from different people and I believed that the story sounded credible. Glad to hear that the stories were wrong.
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# Gets me every timeTarnishUK 2012-11-23 12:39
This picture breaks my heart each time I see it, I just want to go home and give my little boy a hug and make sure he knows how much he's loved. Awful that any child should have to go through that.

The greatest respect to Colonel Bieger for for ensuring that poor little girl wasn't alone at the end.
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# Mistaken IdentityMary Hampton 2013-01-21 01:14
Your photograph is very famous as is the photograph taken of Army Medic Spc. Joseph Patrick Dwyer carrying the young Iraqi boy. Dwyer did commit suicide in 2008.
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# "Mistaken identity"?Marc Fogerty 2013-01-21 09:02
@ Mary Hampton

You have your wires crossed, the photo here was taken by Michael Yon who's website this is and has already been stated is of the then Major Mark Bieger carrying an injured Iraqi little girl. The Major's name and rank insignia can be clearly seen on the left breast of his load carrying vest.
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# Warrant Officer 1Matt Hanson 2014-03-03 22:24
Just a follow-up on this old rumor. Colonel Bieger spoke at our class dinner for the Adjutant General School on Fort Jackson, 28 Feb 2014. Alive and well. :)
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# MAJTobias Apticar 2015-05-12 02:11
COL Bieger was my BDE Commander from 2012-2013! Best BDE CDR I've ever had! Takes care of his Soldiers every day!! Down to earth & humble!!
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# MrsLaquita Walters 2015-10-03 07:32
Col. Mark Beiger and his Amy are excellent examples of leadership. My husband has served under his leadership at Ft. Jackson, S.C. in 2012-2013. During that time, I have never seen a commander and his spouse throughout my husband's army career display so much care for not only the Soldier but also the families as well. They are the most fun, energetic, and youthful acting couples that I've had the pleasure of meeting. I would not mind for my husband to be lead by this wonderful man any day! Thank you for your leadership Col. Beiger
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# Captain, US Army RetiredMarshall E Farris 2016-03-08 05:59
I served with COL Bieger at Fort Jackson from 2010-2014. He was one of the most genuine, caring and dynamic leaders I've ever had the pleasure to work for in my 20 years of service. Under his leadership he mentored and guided the Troops, their families and the units to seamless successes.

Colonel Bieger also wrote a book about the requirements for change in the military where/when it is constantly deployed. Using business concepts and the Marine Corps' expeditionary model are two keys to unlock the burdens of the typical top-heavy, expensive military units.
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