The Stresses Of Combat

How much can a soldier take and still be combat effective? Generals and the medical personnel that treat those afflicted have been wrestling with this since, well, aggression was invented. Leonidas and the Trojans had it easy ,”Either come home with your shield, or On it”. Even Patton couldn’t figure it out, and his failure cost him plenty. But the answers are as nubulous as asking what motivates a soldier?

Last week I wrote about the passing of Buck Compton, Buck snapped during the Battle of the Bulge, where his platoon was destroyed before his eyes, yet men of weaker character managed to soldier on. The answer no doubt lies within the individual, his own coping mechanisms and his own tolerance, but one thing is clear, despite each man’s bucket being different in size with another, each bucket does fill up, the stresses add up, and no one, not even the individual soldier, knows when his bucket is full:

The Army sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan men, women and children on Sunday was reportedly on his fourth combat tour and had suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle rolled over in 2010. He served three deployments in Iraq and was currently on his fourth tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan.

There is no way of knowing if the sergeant’s brain injury and multiple deployments are related to the brutal crime he allegedly committed. But the incident highlights the enormous strain the country’s beleaguered all-volunteer military force is under. The longest war in U.S. history has meant extensive and frequent deployments with troops now reporting mental illness at record rates.

As if record numbers of mental illness was not bad enough, we get to chew on this:

Between 2005 to 2010, a U.S. service member took his or her own life every 36 hours, according to a new report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
“Although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States,” the report stated.
Military suicide has risen over the past 10 years. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that a veteran takes his or her own life every 80 minutes. However, the report’s authors say the true number is unknown.

This is beyond horrible, and is no way to treat the defenders of our freedoms and liberties.

One of the problems lies in the code of conduct/honor that each man swears to when enlisting. The soldier is expected to fight, to follow orders and to be an effective cog in the wheel that is his platoon. His individual needs are subordinated to that of the squad, so when he has doubts, problems, or mental difficulties, he is taught that he must carry on, for the fighting integrity of his unit. He won’t pull himself off of the line, nor will the platoon leader, the officer tasked with the welfare of his men, for fear of incurring the scorn of his commander for being a weak leader and not being able to motivate his men, and round and round they go until someone snaps.

The Army’s own research has shown that a higher rate of soldiers are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after their second deployment, and that multiple deployments put soldiers at risk for a slew of mental problems. An Institute of Medicine study found that 27 percent of “those who deployed 3-4 times received diagnoses of depression, anxiety or acute stress compared to 12% of those deployed just once.” As of the end of last year, the Army had more than 125,000 soldiers who have been deployed three to four times. The Army recently moved to shorten deployments from 12 to nine months and to lengthen rest periods between them.

Yeah, no shit. You can’t push these guys into longer and more frequent deployments and think that everything is just honky dorry because they aren’t complaining. That is the soldier’s ethos, they don’t complain, they persevere.

I brought this whole thing up because this morning while pursuing my local paper, I read that they Afghan government wants to try this soldier in one of their civilian courts and that Leon Penata brought up the death penalty as being on the table. I know I don’t get a vote, but I say horseshit to both. Those Sharia complaint theocrats should not get anywhere near this soldier. And no, we aren’t going to execute him, sorry, but that is not on the table. All the apologies and 10 years of ingratiating ourselves to the Afghan people is sufficient. Keep your scimitars sheathed because this guys is keeping his head.

Veteran’s benefits and the way this nation treats those that served has always been big with me. Not because I got anything out of it (although the G.I. bill did pay for some of my college) but especially now, when more and more of warriors are coming home broken, we have a responsibility to fix these guys as best we can.

Comments are closed.

  1. TxAg94

    vnguru says: March 14, 2012 4:37 am at 4:37 am (UTC -4)
    “The Army sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan men” I don’t know what is going on with US army. You know, when soldier going to be crazy..they may be came terrible monster.

    Forgive me but WTF??

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  2. Mississippi Yankee

    During WW II there were more soldiers and Marines in transit on any given day then we have in our whole Armed Forces today yet the suicide rate back then was insignificant compared to today’s numbers. Their battle lasted for days and days on end. They were much greener, had shorter training too. But they did have the full support of leaders and their countrymen. That war was fought with the sole purpose of victory, stalemates were not an option. Coincidentally it’s the last war we won… outright. Your welcome Kimpost ;/

    But today we molly-coddle our youth from kindergarten on, giving trophies to every boy and girl just for showing up. Never congratulating winners and more importantly never encouraging losers to not give up and try again. I’m not saying this was the case with this particular soldier but still the numbers don’t lie. Today’s suicide rate is off the charts. WHY?

    Where are Leonidas the Trojan and I going wrong? We’ll tell Patton later, he’s pissing in a river right now.

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  3. Kimpost

    I’m not ruling out that there’s something to what you are saying, MY. If there’s condemnation from your own society it should add to the pressure. But, mostly I would think it comes down to the horrors of war, and what the individual psyche can withstand. I remember having seen horrible suicide numbers linked to WW2 too…

    Here’s an article suggesting just that. Granted there’s an age element, but suicide is suicide.

    The suicide rate among these [WW2] veterans is also roughly double the rate of veterans under 35, those who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  4. Mississippi Yankee

    I read your link although I bristled at the source :New America Media/ The Bay Citizen:

    The analysis of official death certificates on file at the California Department of Public Health reveals that 532 California veterans over age 80 committed suicide between 2005 and 2008.

    This is also like comparing apples to oranges. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome kicking in 60 years after the fact? That would mean I only have a decade and a half to get my affairs in order. And pray that I don’t fall prey to an Obama Death Panel.

    There is absolutely no mention of suicide rate for ALL Americans over the age of 80. Or the despair that may come with a failing body and an ever increasing healthcare boondoggle.

    My biggest defense still is, comparing mostly 20-something fighting men to 80 year old members of Americas Greatest Generation who have reached their declining day a bit of a stretch.

    UPDATE
    Here’s a link and some numbers for 65+ suicides:

    Older People

    The suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
    The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
    The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75.
    About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
    Six to 9 percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
    More than 30 percent of patients suffering from major depression report suicidal ideation.

    AFSP American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

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  5. Kimpost

    I accept all your disclaimers, but this line from the article I linked to isn’t good, if it’s true. I think that war tends to do things to people.

    In California, World War II-era veterans are killing themselves at a rate that’s nearly four times higher than that of people the same age with no military service.

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  6. mrblume

    That war was fought with the sole purpose of victory

    The lack of purpose behind these wars may indeed by a factor.

    I am of course happy to give this soldier a free pass, bleeding heart liberal that I am. However, once we establish that “mental issues” qualify as extenuating circumstances, and we know that those can have all kinds of sources, it follows that civilian murderers would at least sometimes need to be afforded the same benefit.

    Of course that’s not what is going on here. The crucial point here is that he killed Afghans. People here care about dead Afghans only in the context of public relations, at best. If he had targeted his fellow soldiers, or if, say, he had released classified material that has not been proved to have killed anyone, you’d happily hang him out to dry.

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  7. richtaylor365 *

    M.Y., were you ever in the military? Any of your close family members (someone that you talked to about it extensively) or a close friend?

    It sounds like you are making a direct correlation between this generation (molly coddled, thus, lacking in fortitude and resolve) and the suicide rate from a position of ,”What do you except from these sissies”, is that an accurate assessment?

    Easy Company (Buck Compton’s unit and the focal group behind Band of Brothers) parachuted in to Normandy in June of 1944, their last major combat encounter was the Battle of the Bulge, in December of the same year, roughly 6 months of on and off fighting. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for over 10 years. This particular soldier was on his 4th combat tour (3 in Iraq previously) and suffered a traumatic brain injury on one of those tours. Yes, I know you qualified your comment by saying it is unknown whether this guy was one of those molly coddled sissies, but seriously, you don’t think tour after tour after tour takes it’s toll on even the roughest toughest studliest soldier?

    I don’t comment on your boring post (almost no one does)

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re not a nobody :)

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  8. Mississippi Yankee

    M.Y., were you ever in the military? Any of your close family members (someone that you talked to about it extensively) or a close friend?

    USMC 1966 – 1970
    Rank of Sgt. at time of Honorable Discharge.

    Why do you ask?

    It sounds like you are making a direct correlation between this generation (molly coddled, thus, lacking in fortitude and resolve) and the suicide rate from a position of ,”What do you except from these sissies”, is that an accurate assessment?

    I do not deny the possibility. Although I can not read their minds, nor would any rational person lump all of today’s youth together.

    My point is with a high liberal/ progressive tilt in education (grade K-12) and the skyrocketing number of single parent/broken families since LBJ a multitude of today’s youth do not possess, nor more importantly were ever instilled with, the fortitude and courage their grandfathers possessed.

    I don’t comment on your boring post (almost no one does)
    Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re not a nobody :)

    The grammatical error may be mine, the intent of that statement was people don’t comment on your post when they are boring. And just as a broken clock is right twice a day sometimes you put up an interesting and/or provocative post.

    Of course if, in your infinite wisdom coupled with your seven year old mind set, you prefer me to abstain from your post just say the word. It’s not like your the only person in “Ameritopia” that can’t stand an opposing view. Hell the WH is full of them.

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  9. richtaylor365 *

    USMC 1966 – 1970
    Rank of Sgt. at time of Honorable Discharge.

    Cool, you have my respect…………for your service.

    Why do you ask?

    In any discussion it is always nice to have a point of reference from the other side, I thought that would be obvious.

    I do not deny the possibility. Although I can not read their minds, nor would any rational person lump all of today’s youth together.

    True, but considering his history, 3 Iraq tours and one in Afghanistan, I would think logic and common sense would rule him out as being one of those molly coddled, lacking in fortitude and resolve.

    And just as a broken clock is right twice a day sometimes you put up an interesting and/or provocative post.

    If the frequency of your comments are any indication, my “broken clock” keeps pretty good time.

    Of course if, in your infinite wisdom coupled with your seven year old mind set, you prefer me to abstain from your post just say the word. It’s not like your the only person in “Ameritopia” that can’t stand an opposing view.

    I’ll just chock that up to your often demonstrated inability to “get my drift”, I have no problem and welcome any comments you would like to make. Regarding the opposing view, when they are made honestly and intelligently, again, bring it. As I have said before, I am always willing to be persuaded by a better argument.

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  10. Mississippi Yankee

    I would still like to know this soldier’s name, maybe a little of his history. I thought a 48 delay on speculation would have been sufficient. Yet the Dept. of Defense and the MSM have been strangely reticent with any details beyond “father of three”.

    Considering ALL that’s happened because of his actions I for one want to know some ‘who what and why’.

    1) International condemnation
    2) Calls from Afghanistan’s gov’t for his life
    3) Disarming of Marines before entering a building with Sec. of Defense
    4) Total break-down of talks with Taliban negotiators (ok, pretty weak but still…)

    rich – you may think I judge this Sgt. too harshly but when looking at the Big Picture I believe you may be making excuses where they may not be warranted.

    Just one more thing, accusing people of not “getting your drift” every-time they disagree with you is becoming stale… imajust sayin’

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