Why Not Debate Military Suicides?
by Michael Patrick Brewer
Tucson Citizen, Oct. 09, 2012
BLOGBACK: The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated the current annual number of suicides by veterans registered with VA to be at least 6,570 … or 18 per day. In just the 3.5 years of President Obama’s position as Commander-in-Chief, at least 23,000 veterans are believed to have died from suicide. In the active duty ranks service members are killing themselves at the rate of one per day. Most Americans are clueless to the extent of this terrible problem. Tonight’s presidential debate will confirm whether or not the two candidates to serve as the nation’s next Commander-in-Chief are equally clueless. Those who serve in uniform today represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s population, however, they do so for the protection and benefit of 100 percent of the population, a fact very easily lost by the common citizen.
The exponential increase in the rate of military and veteran suicides in the past year is not a sideshow to our war on terrorism, it is a war of its own, a war against a terrorized psyche.
Approximately 7000 veterans and active duty military service members have cashed in their mortal lives in the past couple years. For each combatant killed in action 25 are dying by suicide.
“The dog barks and the caravan passes.”
In a new-found healthy and supportive environment of, “support the troops,” contrary to the Vietnam war where the suicides were off the charts, (111,000 est.), the dominant culture has not yet penetrated the impact of 4-5 tours of duty for these young warriors. Neither have the clinical mental health professionals.
They may understand the symptoms,but few have discerned the full impact of multiple deployments.
“Understanding is the booby prize.” Werner Erhard.
Tons of veterans have shared with me how well clinicians understand what many veterans of combat call the “checklist PTSD” therapy. They have a good fund of knowledge about the litany of symptoms, but often lack the bonding ability to lead them out of the nightmarish morass of somatic hell.
I do not fault them. They cannot be expected to go to the depths of existential pain that is the burden of many returning veterans. Only their comrades can go there.
A former Army combat platoon leader in Vietnam, Bill Black, observes, “this lack of bonding moves the veteran into isolation and knowing that no one is touching his/her environment, they just stop listening.”
Lydia Brewer, who assists in managing a website, LivingWithPTSDwives.yuku.com, for the wives of veterans for the past 11 years, indicates , “they know the problems they have right up front, because of the screening process and all the outreach programs.”
She states, “that has a paradoxical component in that unlike you guys who had a healthy dose of repression and denial, but still maintained some hope for your future, these young soldiers are told upon mustering out that they are damaged goods which may well interfere with some natural hope for the future.”
“One who reaps the wind, sows the storm.” With upwards of 50,000 troops rotating to polite society in the next two years, we have yet to see the eye of the storm, in all its manifestations of adaptive behavior and all too frequent career ending self destructive habits.
Again Bill Black asserts, “the national discussion of employment, the economy and abortion relegate veteran suicides to a side show.”
With fewer that 1 percent of the nation serving in the Armed Forces — the lowest since WWI — this topic of suicide makes headlines and dies there for lack of resonation in the community.
These veterans are returning to a nation in angst and a house divided. A well trained soldier is skilled, not just in the art of warfare, but in the unseen talent of absorbing the dangers of their entire milieu, both physical and mental.
It is a survival trait.
One may assert that the collective mental apparatus of one nation under God, has gone askew. Short of autocratic rule few see this pugilistic mindset that permeates the land coming into a state of equilibrium in the near future.
The soldier is but the new canary in the mine shaft–first to feel, first to manifest the symptoms of a democracy at risk. A sovereignty that has sold its soul to global and corporate interests, with us as the cops.
A Republic yes, but a divisive populace that mimics the very fragmented nation states that they were fighting to stabilize.
In many respects the polarity experienced from the day they kiss American soil, mirrors the chaos of the enemies turf. Separating these worlds is a daunting task for any sentient being. We owe them more mature governing, and much more truth.
Electing to serve your nation in the Armed Forces is not just a job, it is the adoption of an identity, a replacement of the self for a mission that embodies the assumed unified cause of your mother country.
That unified mission, upon return to civilian or state side duty is vacant in our nations leaders. We are subsumed with greed and self serving motives, leaving the submerged identity of the sailor, soldier, Marine with few causes to adopt. So they isolate in an uncanny way just like the veterans of Vietnam.
They begin their daily lives to the cacophony of waring political parties and their assigns, knowing full well that this drama of fools and court jesters is playing to an Al Jezzera audience every day and assisting in the recruiting of more insurgents. We owe them more maturity.
The transitioning veteran is queried incessantly by the red and blue state mavens, many wanting to use them for political gain. They isolate.
“We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” Military suicides beg for a national debate, the nature of which a repressed populace in disconnect about the nature of war is ill prepared. I suggest we prepare before entering the next war, or we will have a social fabric so frayed that it will take decades to heal.
It is this writers belief that the death instinct is a primary inherent form of aggression that we are born with … a desire to unbind all connections and return to a null peaceful state where one can begin anew. The multiple tour veteran has little opportunity to renew–ergo, the internalized aggression. Ironically the canary is mirroring our nations aggression turned inward.
Why is this not worthy of a national debate?
“Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken from the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. They were remolded; and they were made over; they were made to ‘about face’, to regard murder as the order of the day.
“They were put shoulder to shoulder, and through mass psychology and they were entirely changed.
“We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed. Then suddenly we discharged them and told them to make another ‘about face.
“This time they had to do their own readjusting without mass psychology, without officers aid and advice, without nation wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more so we scattered them without speeches or parades.
“Many, too many of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they would not make that final, ‘about face’ alone.”
This was written by Smedley D. Butler, Major General United States Marine Corps. Two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He was referencing soldiers in World War I, the, “war to end all wars.”
Ignoring this national epidemic is form of suicide.
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