This Memorial Day weekend the US Army issued a tweet asking followers, “How has serving impacted you?.”
What followed was thousands of replies from service members and their friends and family, many detailing stories of PTSD, suicide, substance abuse, disabilities and sexual assault.
My children's father used his military leave to periodically return to town to try to kill me and cause other havoc. He was never held accountable. One time he took our son and I haven't seen him since. I'm sure he's ok with his service. I'm still traumatized. Thanks.
— Sista Self-care (@PoetRDF) May 27, 2019
I was sexually assaulted and discharged at Madigan Army hospital when I reported what happened. My DD214 was impacted, I was not awarded full benefits, I lived in my car, struggled w/ suicide attempts and no self worth. Now, I'm fighting a PTSD claim. #armyofone #metoo #mst
— Elizabeth Grey (@elizamessgrey) May 27, 2019
My father served in World War II overseas. An African American soldier sent to the Colored Bases. All I know my mother said he was never the same when he came home and when I was 5 he was committed to an institution and I remember us taking that long ride to see him on Sundays.
— de (@spratleydenise) May 28, 2019
Uncle was drafted into the Vietnam War. Served for two months & began using heroin to deal with killing people. He was exposed to Agent Orange, was dishonorably discharged, & died of an overdose in January of 1981. He was 28.
— Alyssa Picard (@ThatPicard) May 28, 2019
It ruined 3 generations, probably more, of men in my family. Turning them into alcoholics to cope with the toxic system you put in place they then carried into the home creating emotionally abusive environments that fucked with me and my brothers heads
— Rose ✨ Stan Victon ✨ (@jackxingsrose) May 28, 2019
The “Combat Cocktail”: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage. It cost me my relationship with my eldest son and my grandson. It cost some of my men so much more.
How did serving impact me? Ask my family.
— Sean P. (@SeanP_75) May 26, 2019
The tweet, which is no doubt a PR catastrophe, provides a unique platform for service members and their loved ones to spotlight the consequences of military service.
The US military is one of the most respected institutions in America, yet there is a fundamental lack of public oversight and accountability — most Americans don’t understand what the military really does, or how it impacts lives both abroad and at home.
The military has historically been seemingly immune to the public skepticism applies to every other American institutions, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. The media and the politicians have praised the military to no end, far past what should be reasonable. The result is an American public grossly misinformed, completely unaware of the true consequences of military service.
Though the American government claims that the military is a force that “serves to protect our security and way of life,” some veterans tell a different tale.
In a speech, US General Smedley Butler describes his service.
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers… I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”
In truth, the US military has seemingly always sacrificed the interests of American people in favor of big business. Whenever countries refuse to accommodate the America’s business interests, the military is brought in to be the purveyors of “freedom and democracy.” What’s worse is the atrocities that service member commit, both willingly and not, for this false cause.
Notwithstanding the Army’s mass bombings of civilian areas, murder of unarmed citizens, use of carcinogenic chemical weapons, destruction of vital infrastructure and torture and rape of civilians abroad– the recent tweets have revealed the horrifying reality on the home front.
In recent years, the suicide rate for young veterans has spiked to alarming levels. According to data provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times greater than non-veterans. About 20 veterans a day across the country take their own lives, and veterans accounted for 14 percent of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2016, despite being only 8 percent of the country’s population.
One look at the replies to the Army’s shows just how much service can affect service members and military families — and the incompetence of Veterans Affairs is the main reason behind this disconnect. Veterans continue to struggle with limited access, poor service, bureaucratic operational systems and processes.
It is more clear now than ever. Every memorial day Americans across the country gather to pay their respects to veterans, but now we must also ask ourselves who we are really fighting for. And whether it is worth it.
Veterans in need of help can access the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 800-273-8255 or through this website: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net
Photo: US Army