To quote a recent story on the Komonews site on the death of a young soldier who hung himself after being picked on:
“More soldiers are killing themselves each day than dying in combat. That right there says that something is very wrong with the system right now, of (the) mental health care in the military.” – Army veteran Josh Simpson.
Sounds like so much finger-pointing to me, over some self-pity gone awry…and I’m pretty sure the last part of that statement, “mental health care in the military” is an oxymoron.
I don’t deny that war is stressful…but how did the high-tech fighting we employ today become more stressful than the low-tech methods employed during the last three (count ’em, 3) major conflicts?
Soldiers in Viet Nam slugged through swamps and mud searching out a deeply entrenched enemy who employed an elaborate tunnel system and guerrilla techniques that American soldiers were poorly equipped to handle, not to mention some of the cruelest methods of killing ever imagined, all up-close and personal. POW camps that specialized in torture of prisoners also had a knack for making their guests disappear. For ever.
A great many veterans dealt with drug addictions and PTSD when they returned, only to find that their home nation had turned their collective backs and refused to even acknowledge their existence. Only after a few of them demanded it by climbing a tower with a sniper rifle to display his new set of skills did America begin to ask the right questions, and feel a little empathy for the suffering. These vets learned quickly to keep mum about the whole experience; Many have never told a war story, and never will…but we are not nearly as strong as our fathers.
Our fathers returned home after WWII as heroes, and were assimilated into the social culture like they had never left…Jobs and mortgages were waiting for them like so much fruit on a tree. They kept their nightmares a secret, and they filtered the war stories around little ears. My own father was a Golden Gloves boxer who watched his brother’s ship go down at Pearl Harbor while fighting to save his own and survive the Japanese attack. He had a third grade education, his first full-time job at 9 years old, and by 15 he was feeding his seven brothers and sisters as a street-fighter on the docks of Baltimore…and he never whined about his luck, or pointed a finger, or shed a tear. These veterans became the new definition of “Tough Guys” …but they were not nearly as tough as their fathers.
Our grandfathers? Fought through WWI with ridiculously-slow rifles and very busy bayonettes. Same basic story; Blood & Guts, Heroes, jobs, families, and the same tight lips that keep ships afloat. No bullet-proof Hummers for these guys. They worked hard, most starting as young as 7, all day long in mills and shipyards for little pay. They worked miserable jobs in deplorable conditions…and they too, hoped to be as strong as their fathers.
Was fighting a war easier in the past 100 years, before the advent of remote-controlled bombers, guided missiles and smart bombs? Obviously not. So what’s the real problem here?
Single moms, for one. Whiny, privileged, entitled brats who believed that joining the Army will do for them what their absent father didn’t, and their sainted mom couldn’t: Turn them into men. The problem with this theory is that these apron-stringers never really considered that anyone would ever ask them to earn their own manhood, and then the absolute worst possible scenario becomes reality: The TI* he has a father-figure crush on doesn’t return his affections, and now there’s No One is around to kiss his boo-boos.
*(TI= Training Instructer, ie: The boot-camp life-coach whose job is to break momma’s baby out of his shell and convert him into useful government property)
In case my warped sense of humor is pushing the point past you, here it is in a nut-shell:
The problem of veteran suicides is not based in the fact that wars have gotten harder (the opposite is true, in fact), but it’s simply that America’s young men have gotten softer.
Not all young men mind you…but so many of them have, that those too weak to stick around are being considered an “epidemic”.
I admit the possibility of course, that the Army has managed to make fighting too easy, which is simply feeding the already rampant sense of entitlement that the young men felt before enlisting. They were promised rides in Hummers and video games that kill people they’ll never have to see…and then someone burst that bubble by asking them to get their hands dirty.
Let’s not forget this misguided and pointless pseudo-patriotism nonsense where we automatically label every kid who joins the service a “hero”.
Reality Check: The vast majority of new recruits joined the military for two basic reasons; First because they needed a job, and Uncle Sam’s Army was the only job they could qualify for. Second, because they needed a job, and their options came down to flipping burgers or wearing a uniform. Every kid in a uniform is not a hero, any more than every mailman is a hero. A small percentage actually joined for the status, maybe because high school was rough and he wants to learn how to kick some ass, or because there’s a girl back home (or a father) that he wants to impress.
You were sold this “We Love Our Heros” media blitz after 911 because recruiting for a war on foreign soil is a tough sell, and this Pentagon-based marketing plan worked pretty well. Too well, actually. The kids who signed on to be heroes began to believe their own hype…but there’s no tickertape parades, no million-dollar contracts with NASA or the Donald waiting for them. It’s as if they had simply done a job they were paid for, and now the job is over…Because that’s exactly what just happened.
We paid for their training. We paid for their food, housing, transportation, equipment, and in many cases we even paid for their mistakes. We gave them a paycheck** on top of all that…but now the job is over. Move on.
**Do I think they were paid fairly? Hell to the No. Soldiers with families should make a livable wage so that their children do not have to know what food stamps are, but that’s a subject for another day.
Remember those forgotten laws of nature, like Natural Selection and the Law of the Jungle? Who are we to argue with Nature?
I submit to you that if these men had not joined the military, they would have simply found another excuse for their own weaknesses, and therefore the fact that he was wearing a uniform when those faulty thought processes caught up to him does not automatically make the military to blame.
So, veterans are taking their own lives in record numbers. Do you really care?
I’m not sure that I do.