If you’re gonna prey on kids for imperialism, at least treat their PTSD
May 26, 2019 3:42 PM   Subscribe

...the US Army tweeted, “How has serving impacted you?” As of this writing, the post has over 5,300 responses. Most of them are heartbreaking.
posted by 445supermag (59 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
 
It still pisses me off to no end that in the run up to the Iraqi invasion of 2003, anyone with a brain in their heard or over 40 or so knew without a doubt these kinds of stories were going to be the result of that action, and yet our “leaders” did it any way. And to think that George W. Bush looks good to us now. God save us. God help our veterans.
posted by hwestiii at 3:56 PM on May 26 [65 favorites]


This showed up as trending on Friday on my twitter app and then did not, five minutes after I clicked the thread. I opened it up knowing I would be seeing responses like the ones shown in the article. Almost 20 years of war added onto a long line of wars that have broken people around the world.

.

for all the dead and suffering because of US ambitions.
posted by lineofsight at 3:59 PM on May 26 [19 favorites]


How disconnected from reality did whoever runs the Army Twitter account have to be to not see this coming? I hope this becomes a crazy huge scandal.
posted by Caduceus at 4:02 PM on May 26 [71 favorites]


Or that everyone selling the war and pushing for war saw no negative consequence from it while people opposed to the war and saying what very obvious thing was going to happen got fired or called a traitor and not even the biggest protests in the world meant one single shit and all we got for it was a half million dead Iraqis, an Entire traumatized generation, a war in its 18th year, and a lot of beaucoup profits for oil companies and mercenary squads.

Great work all around everyone.
posted by The Whelk at 4:02 PM on May 26 [64 favorites]


The Army’s error is even more amazing, since this is a known problem that was well-predicted and amply documented. It took a huge amount of denial to post that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:05 PM on May 26 [15 favorites]


I didn't think I could be angrier or sadder. Shows what I know.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:05 PM on May 26 [10 favorites]


Maybe Caduceus, but cynically I imagine it will be pushed against by those who were either less exposed or more easily able to compartmentalize their experiences. Lots of the desk job types never really stop being ooh-rah. My parents were both military, deployed, and the contrast between their thoughts and those of their colleagues who never deployed to a war or crisis zone is telling.
posted by jellywerker at 4:07 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


It's something, I guess, that they followed up with a respectful thank you for sharing and information for a Veteran's Crisis Hotline. Better than I would have expected from a military under Trump.

Of course, Trump probably hasn't noticed this yet. I'm curious to see how this plays out.
posted by Caduceus at 4:07 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


I've had four friends from high school who opted for service because of their economic straits. All four have committed suicide in the last ten years. We must do better. This shit is unconscionable, heartbreaking, and infuriating.
posted by Token Meme at 4:07 PM on May 26 [71 favorites]


Uh, isn't it more likely that they did see this coming? I mean, I have no idea what benefit they thought would come from it, but I kinda think it's more likely than someone just went "bet this will be full of praise, send tweet."
posted by axiom at 4:09 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


for all the dead and suffering because of US ambitions.

I agree overall with the sentiment but I feel like "ambitions" is the wrong word.

Like, someone ambitious can set their sights on a goal and bust their butt for it year in year out and otherwise make their own sacrifices to finally get what they sought for.

You need something else besides ambition to feed other people's lives, health, and spirits to the wild dogs of war without knowing that it (or something worse) is coming no matter what you choose.
posted by wildblueyonder at 4:10 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


There are millions of cars in junkyards with faded "support the troops" bumper stickers that have had less longevity than our neverending wars. But still the nationalist saber-rattling continues.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:25 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


I agree overall with the sentiment but I feel like "ambitions" is the wrong word.

greed works.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:28 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


I pulled refugees out of the ocean. They eventually got to stay here. It felt like we were the good guys.
Now kids die in CBP custody. A big chunk of my country seems happy about that, and it's the chunk that is loudest about thanking me for my service.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:33 PM on May 26 [208 favorites]


Uh, isn't it more likely that they did see this coming? I mean, I have no idea what benefit they thought would come from it, but I kinda think it's more likely than someone just went "bet this will be full of praise, send tweet."

I'd love to believe that whoever launched this tweet knew what they were doing and wanted this to happen. To shine a light on this terrible injustice. It just doesn't seem likely to me.
posted by Caduceus at 4:43 PM on May 26 [19 favorites]


"This year in history, we talked about the failure of democracy, how the social scientists of the 21st Century brought our world to the brink of chaos. We talked about the veterans, how they took control and imposed the stability that has lasted for generations since. We talked about the rights and privileges between those who served in the armed forces and those who haven't, therefore called citizens and civilians. [to a student] You. Why are only citizens allowed to vote?
Student: It's a reward. Something the federation gives you for doing federal service."

Jean Rasczak: "No. Something given has no basis in value. When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you're using force. And force, my friends, is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived"

-Starship Troopers.
posted by clavdivs at 4:44 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


Uh, isn't it more likely that they did see this coming?

Really? Pearl Harbor, Tet, 68', Iraq/ 9-11...Chicken pot pie M.R.E.'
posted by clavdivs at 4:48 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


I did a 6 week psych rotation at the VA and it was absolutely horrifying.

90% of the women I saw had a history of military sexual trauma.

Prescribers in the military have no issue prescribing opiates for pain, benzos for ptsd (with or without a diagnosis), and stimulants if the first two rxs make them too sleepy for combat. Then when the VA takes over these prescriptions are heavily monitored and prescribers will get dinged for over prescribing. So prescribers will take away everything and offer things like capscaisin cream and melatonin.
posted by LaunchBox at 5:05 PM on May 26 [41 favorites]


I just finished reading "How to hide an Empire" by Daniel Immerwahr (use your goddamn library), and this kind of disconnect sadly isn't new. Historically, a lot of the blame can be firmly laid at the feet of the American public, who simply just don't care - these problems affect "other people", not anyone you know, therefor it doens't matter so very much. So the comments were, to me, unsurprising - in fact, if they had been opposite of what they were I would have suspected a whitewashing campaign.

That being said, in the modern era, "anyone you know" is now "everyone on Twitter/Facebook/Reddit/Instragram" and that "not" clause is shrinking quickly - and it's starting to matter a lot. Hopefully we're reaching the point where not only are we, as a people, are unwilling to accept this kind of blasé treatment of our own warriors but what we inflict not just on the targets our leaders have chosen (Iraq etc) but also our bases (Japan etc), most of which are forced on the locals without any of their say-so.

FWIW, a good chunk of my extended family served, including my father, grandfather, and uncle. None were super-thrilled with how they were treated and made damn sure neither me or rest of my generation felt they needed to follow in their footsteps.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:19 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


My dad was a Marine who came back a violent alcoholic with PTSD, he in turn terrorized his family so thoroughly that I've have my own anxiety issues all my life. US military service is surely a gift that keeps on giving.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 5:22 PM on May 26 [43 favorites]


hwestiii: And to think that George W. Bush looks good to us now.

Speak for yourself.
posted by tzikeh at 5:23 PM on May 26 [14 favorites]


War is a racket. Google it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:29 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Gentle reminder that the Trump Regime's current war pig John Bolton weaseled out of the Vietnam conflict.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:33 PM on May 26 [17 favorites]


This is my favorite cover of War Pigs. Seems relevant.
posted by signal at 5:41 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:57 PM on May 26


A few days back I posted an Ask Me, requesting people let me know their favourite heart breaking laments in any genre. I was surprised that I got a lot of break-up songs. My girlfriend done left me. The personal tragedy counts, but the scale wasn't large enough to represent uncontrollable keening that can send a crowd to its knees. We don't seem to have a body of artistic work that represents what this thread represents.

Anyone want to get an easy Best Answer? Just link the article or the twitter thread as a reply to my Ask Me.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:59 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


The lead up to the Iraq war was full of hubris. First, they bombed the country's infrastructure before taking it over. Next, they turned away the Iraq war soldiers with no money and nothing to do. They failed to secure Iraq's oil fields and other assets. Finally, they failed to have any plan whatsoever for the country's transition to Democracy. It was a jaw dropping failure to plan on any level. Then they voted the mastermind team that created the disaster in for another term.
posted by xammerboy at 6:06 PM on May 26 [10 favorites]


How disconnected from reality did whoever runs the Army Twitter account have to be to not see this coming?

There’s an old saw that soldiers are only happy when they’re complaining, but there’s a little-known corollary to that that we only complain about the Army to each other. We don’t complain to the people under us, and we rarely complain to the people above us, and we never complain to civilians. There are a few different reasons for that, none of them particularly good. It has always been like that — everyone has a story about how a grandfather or a great-uncle who doesn’t talk about The War.

Twitter has demolished that. Even more than Facebook, when you tweet something out, anybody can see it. The military (especially the Army) is not ready for that. Not at all. The senior leadership is a generation that is just barely comfortable with email; it’ll be another decade before the senior people are used to social media (some are, but they are few and notable).

Public Affairs (Career Field 46) has been an afterthought forever. Officers go into it after spending 6-10 years in some other specialty and knowing that they’re not succeeding in it. The training for it is the shortest specialty training in the entire officer corps. Chaplains spend more time in military schools. And no one is even aware enough to understand that it’s a problem, much less how to solve it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 PM on May 26 [76 favorites]


Or that everyone selling the war and pushing for war saw no negative consequence from it while people opposed to the war and saying what very obvious thing was going to happen got fired or called a traitor and not even the biggest protests in the world meant one single shit and all we got for it was a half million dead Iraqis, an Entire traumatized generation, a war in its 18th year, and a lot of beaucoup profits for oil companies and mercenary squads.


The most staggering thing about the Iraq war is that a half million dead Iraqi civilians doesn't even capture the total death toll, especially when you factor in the resultant rise of ISIS.

In comparison, America suffered 4,424 total deaths so far in the Iraq War.

I wonder if Americans will ever be able to reckon with what they did to Iraq, but then again, there has never been a reckoning for what they did in Vietnam.
posted by Ouverture at 6:14 PM on May 26 [30 favorites]


Token Meme: I've had four friends from high school who opted for service because of their economic straits. All four have committed suicide in the last ten years. We must do better. This shit is unconscionable, heartbreaking, and infuriating.

"Economic draft" is a term I recently heard, and it makes sense. And it breaks my heart. We drove to Louisiana from New Mexico, and saw a lot of small, dying-to-dead towns, some with signs of former agricultural or rail road-related prosperity. Or they were former pit-stops when a highway through your town was a good thing.

Which is to say, for kids who can't get out on their own, I imagine that the siren song of the Army recruiter is particularly sweet.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:16 PM on May 26 [27 favorites]


What frightens me is that even if the VA was operating with sufficient funding and doing everything possible to treat PTSD, it still wouldn't be enough to counter the trauma experienced by 18 year olds (just babies!) in combat roles. I feel like gobs of money should be thrown at cannabis, psilocybin, and this new ketamine treatment. But other "small" things as well, like someone showing up at a vet's door and taking them to appointments. I would never go to my psych appointments if a peer counselor didn't bang on my door and drive me. In-house therapy visits. None of this would make a dent in the defense budget. And maybe extend medical coverage to all treatment facilities, public and private? I don't think we're talking a large percentage of patients here compared to the populous at large. I don't have extensive knowledge about how the VA treatment system works, but I do have a friend who has to drive his friend from Costa Mesa to Long Beach once a week, a good hour each way. This is in a county with 40+ hospital facilities.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:22 PM on May 26 [13 favorites]


Anyone want to get an easy Best Answer? Just link the article or the twitter thread as a reply to my Ask Me.

I didn't post it there because I just wasn't sure it fit (and I haven't checked that Ask in a while, so maybe someone else did anyway), but reading this comment, you might really appreciate Dream Theater's Prophets of War.
posted by solotoro at 6:35 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


How disconnected from reality did whoever runs the Army Twitter account have to be to not see this coming?

"this won't backfire" is SOP for the US military
posted by Mikey-San at 6:41 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


In comparison, America suffered 4,424 total deaths so far in the Iraq War.

Any measure of American deaths in the Iraq war that doesn't include these many, many suicides is inherently a deflated count.
posted by kafziel at 7:35 PM on May 26 [42 favorites]


Public Affairs (Career Field 46) has been an afterthought forever...no one is even aware enough to understand that it’s a problem, much less how to solve it.

Maybe that's for the best. I'm sure some leadership is unhappy that this conversation isn't flattering, but there could be worse things than the idea of reckoning with how we're failing veterans (and the inevitable costs of war even if we weren't).

Including the terrifying idea of a military force with an sharply effective PR arm.
posted by wildblueyonder at 7:37 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


It has always been like that — everyone has a story about how a grandfather or a great-uncle who doesn’t talk about The War.

One of my elder cousin's asked my Great-Uncle about his experiences in World War II. He says our uncle told him that they sent the soldiers and the horses over to Europe on boats (and the men and horses were seasick and miserable). Then when the war was over they left the horses behind for people to eat, and sent the soldiers home again on the boats (and the men were seasick and miserable). "But what happened while you were there?" my cousin asked. And our uncle said nothing and began to cry.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:00 PM on May 26 [51 favorites]


I'm a little sad reading this. I have a family member who is active service in the Army for whom it is perfect. He likes his job and the sense of purpose and genuinely feels it's his life's calling. He's not young and naive either, he's been doing this 10+ years. Still I worry about him; we do a terrible job caring for the mental health of our soldiers.

I saw one tweet in response to this from a gay soldier who was kicked out of the Army and forced to repay all the college they paid for, because he was gay. He's still in debt. The fuck?
posted by Nelson at 8:19 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


In the last five years or so I’ve worked with a few service people who saw active duty in the forever war. One was a good old boy from Oklahoma who went in to the army after 9/11 waving the flag and singing God Bless the USA. He served in Army Intelligence, sitting in a room while his cohort were sent into battle. This wasn’t lost on him, and he came out cynical and angry.

One was infantry in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sometimes he had “bad Army days” and we had to make sure he was working somewhere quiet. I saw him on the street a while back in Seattle, walked right past me with a thousand yards stare. Later when I ran into him again, he apologized. He works for the VA now and finds it extremely rewarding.

One I worked with on the train. One of the trips I worked with him he got off the second day, unable to do his job because his PTSD was acting up.

One of my friend’s husband is a marine, and the Fourth is okay for him because he expects the fireworks, but fireworks not on the Fourth are incredibly triggering.

I have no love for the armed forces. I feel for the kids they took in and absolutely destroyed.
posted by gc at 8:51 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


Daily I'm horrified by what current soldiers are asked to do and then do.

I talk about my dad a lot here - 26 years in the Air Force. I try to be an advocate for military folks who are still liberal and supportive.

There was a tape recording of a 21-gun salute at his funeral and his gravestone lists his service as Vietnam.

He never went to Vietnam.

He was either a desk jockey or in Officer Training School in the late 60s which meant he had served in Vietnam. He got cancer - probably caused by the missile silos he'd been in since the early 70s.

But I never had to deal with his death in a moment, I held his hand when he died, I had more than 15 years with him after he left missile silos.

Daily I'm horrified by what current soldiers are asked to do and then do.
posted by bendy at 8:54 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


Having people work. Every. Day. Of a deployment is akin to a sick psychological or physiological experiment. There are no bonkers WWII wars of endless daily mass slaughter going on. There is no need to perpetually grind people every single day overseas. None. The going in every single day of the standard 200+ day deployments; We aren't made for that. Prisons are about the only other item that runs so many daily formations/counts; and yeah. Prisons just do so; so well for the people that they have on the 'every day; all the days' routine.

Mind, body, spirit; nothing gets a chance to ever rest, not to mention heal. Go figure about everybody comes 'home' fried in some manner or another.
posted by Afghan Stan at 9:11 PM on May 26 [12 favorites]


How disconnected from reality did whoever runs the Army Twitter account have to be to not see this coming?

I have to wonder if the person who posted it knew *exactly* what would happen.
posted by Snowflake at 9:39 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


Above and beyond the other morally reprehensible aspects of Bush's War is the staggering moral reprehensibility of sending people out to acquire wounds and disabilities that you know you don't have the budget to take care of when they get back. There is no fucking excuse whatsoever for the necessity of charities to pay for treatment and rehabilitation for physical and mental health problems that were 100% predictable to any goddamn adult who was paying the slightest bit of fucking attention.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 PM on May 26 [32 favorites]


I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Army Twitter account was controlled by an early-twenty-something with ideas of making the Army "with it" in social media, but no broader perspective or historical context. And supervised by older people who feel like they don't know how to be relevant in social media and give the kids a long leash.

This is more likely a case of "I thought it would be fun and increase our engagement, so I didn't think I needed to get your sign-off". It will never be admitted that's what it was.
posted by ctmf at 11:46 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


At least they stopped before the "witty" snarky comebacks that some private-sector social media teams have decided would be fun. Now THAT would be a PR disaster.
posted by ctmf at 11:49 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


I dated a guy in the army for about two months. He has gotten out of in-patient treatment for PTSD a little while earlier. He was sweet, and kind, and so so so ill. He fell asleep once while we were watching a movie and someone slammed a door in the apartment above us and he woke up and I've never seen someone have a panic attack like that before.

I had to leave for fieldwork for a month and he told me he was going back to in-patient treatment and then moving to the town where that VA hospital is because he didn't trust himself and he just couldn't be two and a half hours away.

My cousin came back from Iraq and divorced his wife and went back to short-haul trucking in a tiny town in Missouri.

My little brother is an officer and has been commissioned for three years now, at his current post for two. He's buried three soldiers, one from a motorcycle accident and two from suicide.

Nobody in my social circle knows anyone in the military. We're all so good and progressive and upper middle class. It's all an abstraction. And it's all an abstraction to the fuckers in the White House drumming up support for Iran. It's so easy to look the other way and ignore soldiers and civilians when all you see is money and oil and power.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:15 AM on May 27 [33 favorites]


gay soldier who was kicked out of the Army

It was this tweet here
I was the first in my family to go to college on a ROTC scholarship but I came out as gay (in 1992), the Army kicked me out and made me pay back the scholarship. At age 45, I still owe money on that.
posted by Nelson at 6:18 AM on May 27 [4 favorites]


So many of my students are veterans. The GI Bill etc. is paying for them to go to college and to live while doing so, which is huge compared to Pell Grants, which are not sufficient to cover cost of living. But TBIs, PTSD, and other permanent disabilities acquired at war are huge obstacles to success in college, especially in conjunction with the struggle to relate to their peers and just never having lived outside of the structure of the military.

I had one student who was just so frustrated because his memory and concentration both no longer work--I was able to get him to go to the VA to get an actual diagnosis so that he could get disability accommodations like extra time on tests in a quiet place. I had two students, both women, who were told that they had used up their benefits (they had both changed majors in their first year of college, as many students do, meaning that they couldn't graduate in exactly 4 years). They were required to take time off from school to work and prove they could hold a job and earn money (like they hadn't done that in their 8 years in the military) before they would be allowed to go back for their final semesters. I was really impressed that they both did come back and graduate.

Most of my students are still proud of their service and grateful for the money for college that is really not otherwise available, but they are also angry about the permanent profound changes to their bodies and minds and lives due to their service.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:43 AM on May 27 [16 favorites]


Any measure of American deaths in the Iraq war that doesn't include these many, many suicides is inherently a deflated count.


Even if you include suicides, that death toll still is completely overshadowed by the millions of Iraqi dead, displaced, and critically injured. Most Americans, even on here, can't even begin to fathom that degree of horror and loss.

If Americans valued civilian lives outside of their borders as much as they do American lives, they wouldn't end up in endless genocidal wars that also lead to more American veteran suicides.
posted by Ouverture at 7:33 AM on May 27 [8 favorites]


It's a smaller number, but the contractors should be considered, too, when we're adding up the deaths.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


I spent the first nine years of my legal career working with veterans who were seeking VA disability benefits. I had thought I was against war before that, but every day was a realization that I had no idea how bad it was. I worked primarily with Vietnam Era veterans, but I had clients from WWII through the current era (Gulf War Era). I spent every day talking to people who had cared deeply about serving their country and wanting to make the world a better place and whose lives had been destroyed as a consequence of that. It was a lot of people from small towns who had no other way to get out and have a chance at a future, a lot of people who had always lived in poverty and had hopes of something better.

I became an expert on the ways Agent Orange messes up the human body over time, and was starting to be an expert on burn pit issues and Gulf War Syndrome. I learned about the other color agents from Operation Ranch Hand. I worked with a lot of people of various genders who had been raped, often repeatedly, often by their sergeants or drill instructors or with their tacit permission. I saw a ton of racially motivated violence, head injuries, botched surgery, people drafted who should have been turned down on medical grounds because the doctor doing the physicals said at the outset that if you could walk, you passed the physical. I met at least one guy every year who used to be the class clown and now lived in a shack in the woods and had to get a family member to bring him groceries because he couldn't be around people.

I met a lot of people who had experienced homelessness, had DOC involvement, couldn't function alone and also couldn't maintain relationships.

I lost clients to their illnesses. There's nothing like getting a phone call from someone who is dying and just wants that decision first, wants that vindication, and having to tell them that there was no way for me to speed that up. A lot of vets think that the VA is delaying their decisions until they just die, which while not technically the strategy it's functionally true.

I received suicide notes via email, and had vets tell me about their past attempts in person.

I got people to talk to me about things they hadn't been able to say, ever, even to their wives, not once in 40 years. I had clients who couldn't talk about what had happened at all. I learned that Marines and MPs pretty much always need a hug, more than folks in other branches or with other jobs.

And I got to see how slow and cumbersome the VA system is, and it's worse than you think. Want your benefits? You file, and then you wait for maybe a year. Maybe the VA grants you, and you're done. Probably they deny you, and you appeal. The appeal takes another few years, and then you go to a judge, and then you wait for the decision. How long? There's no time frame. I had cases where I did the hearing, and three years later I got a call letting me know that the judge who did the hearing had left the VA, and did my client want a new hearing, or did they just want the records to go to the new judge? How long now? Who knows?

The VA is underfunded and understaffed. There are a lot of totally great people there who really care about our vets, who are vets themselves, but because republicans keep setting the VA up to fail by "trimming the fat" and demanding that they do the same job with fewer resources, it's like bailing water with a teaspoon. This is to say nothing of the various VA medical centers who are doing the same thing the Phoenix VA got busted for a few years back, refusing to schedule people and covering it up but also not covering care at any other facility. Phoenix got busted, but it's something that goes on in a lot of other places. A huge chunk of people had their records destroyed in a fire at the St. Louis facility in the 70s, and there was that ugly incident at Philly about... ten years ago?... where two attorneys were busted destroying files. I heard about offices in the south that may have been granting benefits to white veterans and denying them to black veterans, though I never had enough evidence to go anywhere with that. This is not to touch the quality of care issues with VA medical providers.

This is all to say, we are failing our vets at every turn and I have no idea what the person behind that tweet was thinking but I would be very curious to find out.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:16 AM on May 27 [144 favorites]


bile and syntax, flagged as fantastic.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 12:36 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


Here in Australia we are spending $500 million on making our national war memorial even more grotesquely glorious and heroic than it already is.

$500 million could buy a lot of healthcare for the living vets. Like my grandfather, for example, who came back from war a physically and mentally broken man, and was given no support at all, not even a basic pension.

Oh wait, too late. He committed suicide.

:(
posted by Pouteria at 2:32 PM on May 27 [12 favorites]


Just last week I went to the 100th birthday part of a Canadian WWII vet. Before the war he was a successful, attractive young man who was well on his way to building a career in banking and a good life for himself, despite some significant family challenges.

During the war he served in the navy. His war ended when his ship got torpedoed (or otherwise blown up). By best accounts (as he is one of those who doesn't talk about his war time experiences) he spent hours in the North Atlantic waters before being rescued.

After the war, he couldn't maintain a career, and he was emotionally compromised, to the point where his life was never the same again. I guess the term at the time was shell shocked.

During his birthday party, he was talking and looking back over his many long years on this earth, wondering about what he had to look back on. He certainly was having problems seeing the good. Only the bad came to mind. I don't think he would say he lived a happy life.

We've known for ages and ages that people engaged in military conflict end up suffering. It's not a new phenomenon. I don't understand how anybody can be gung-ho for war. Sure, I'll admit there are times when it's necessary and when conflict can't be avoided, but I really wish we were more careful about getting into those situations and making sure that the people we send out to fight those battles are properly taken care of for the rest of their lives (however long or short they may be) because these kinds of traumas aren't the equivalent of a cut finger that is fine once it heals up. They last the life of the person and beyond, affecting their loved ones.
posted by sardonyx at 3:03 PM on May 27 [2 favorites]


My grandfather was an Army sharpshooter in Bastogne. He came back with PTSD, self-medicated with alcohol, and subjected his children to a reign of terror, the aftereffects of which have shaped their adulthoods and, in turn, affected how my cousins and I were raised. This valorization of WWII-era soldiers always oh-so-conveniently ignores how they came home and spent the next decades of their lives. I would imagine that so many families across the U.S. could tell similar stories of what happened when Dad (or Mom) came back from Korea or Vietnam, or the Gulf.

We export our military might and we import domestic damage.
posted by sobell at 3:57 PM on May 27 [6 favorites]


The only experiences I've ever really had with vets are grossly negative. I had a student when I taught university come back from serving, not in combat mind you, who decided he was privileged enough to use his military status to lie to me and then threaten me when I caught him, thus getting him expelled from my class and almost the university. I had another in Florida deny me a fishing license in his shop for no reason but issued one to the next customer that happened to bring up his own service as a method to coddle him. The icing on the cake was a neighbor of mine that shared the same apartment complex that was very obviously an alcoholic and on drugs, probably selling them, that would get drunk and verbally harass me while I was going to and from my unit until I threatened to stomp his head in and got the police involved. Of course, everyone pitied him and ignored me. Great times.

So yeah. I feel empathy for those who are damaged from their time in service but it doesn't ever seem to exist in a vacuum. I've known so many people who were abused by their former military parents, possibly because of PTSD but also just because of the sort of toxic masculinity military culture reinforces.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:11 PM on May 27 [7 favorites]


It's not a new thing, and not just the US military. I was born in the 50s, and it seems like all the parents of all the people I know of my generation had some sort of PTSD from WWII, including the only one who didn't do military service but who was a fireman in the London Blitz. My own father was in the navy, torpedoed and sunk twice and still woke screaming from nightmares thirty years later. He drank.

My brother was in the army in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and has definite PTSD symptoms. He could get some sort of help but drinks instead. I visited him last month, but didn't see much of him because he was busy organising a military funeral and wake for another ex-army friend who had (probably) killed himself. The mind-set that gets a lot of people into the military also makes it worse by making them reluctant to get help, even when it is available, but then it isn't bloody available anyway.
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:32 PM on May 27 [3 favorites]


My son is currently serving in the US Army. He returns from a deployment in July. I spent Memorial Day thinking, hoping maybe even praying that I never spend a Memorial Day memorializing him.
posted by AugustWest at 10:32 PM on May 27 [17 favorites]


If Americans valued civilian lives outside of their borders as much as they do American lives, they wouldn't end up in endless genocidal wars that also lead to more American veteran suicides.

To be honest, I don't see as much evidence as there could be that American culture values lives; inside or outside the borders; civilian or military.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:01 AM on May 28 [12 favorites]


I'm like some of the other folks here. Nobody I grew up close to enlisted out of high school (class of '88, yo), though a few took commissions after college via ROTC or, for a couple of people, service academies. This seemed fairly safe, even; the Russians weren't a threat, and nobody else was, either. (Ha!)

All these people have had, near as I can tell, rewarding and fairly trauma-free careers (intelligence, military law enforcement, etc.), and are now moving on to post-military careers with nice pensions.

Demographically, they kind of won the lotto; if you joined the Army or the Air Force as an officer in 1992 -- and let's be clear: this meant you were well-off enough to go to college, so it's a class breakdown -- you were probably too senior to be carrying a gun and shooting at people by the time 2002 rolled around. You were at least a captain, and maybe even a major by then; you might still have been in a dangerous place, but way more enlisted folks die than officers.

That is not the path for people today. It's definitely not the path for folks a decade younger, who would have enlisted just before or, more likely, right after 9/11, and who didn't have the benefit of a commission. Those are the people we're screwing over left and right, and they're the people who don't have the resources to fight back.

I know several of those folks now, too. Most were (are, I guess they'd say) Marines. So they got hosed on timing, and they got hosed on not being commissioned into safer roles, and they got hosed again by joining the branch that, according to one source, provides just 10% of the total DoD force while taking 23% of the combat deaths.

It will therefore not surprise you to hear that these enlisted Marine vets I know struggle with lingering injury and PTSD almost universally. And the tales they tell of the VA are harrowing and awful.

One of them shared this same link on her FB wall yesterday.
posted by uberchet at 2:34 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


« Older Europe has voted   |   A Full Life Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.