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.