Suicide – the most common non-combat death in military service members
In my pursuit of trying to better the lives of others, the government scratches its head about why soldiers are committing suicide at an alarming rate. As a veteran, I can help with insight about possibilities of these tragic deaths.
Although I wasn’t directly engaged in combat while serving in Afghanistan, I can paint a pretty good picture of the emotions and stress endured while in training here at home and serving overseas.
(I did very little research on the subject, this is all coming from personal insight.)
One thing I noticed while overseas and in basic training is how the disconnect from home causes rampant infidelity and ends relationships with significant others as well as friends. Here’s a few examples I’ve noticed from marital problems friends overseas: My friend that we’ll call Scott didn’t talk to his wife for over a month because she spent all his earnings almost the day of getting his paycheck. Scott would joke about wanting to kill his wife for basically breaking him of all his money, even though we don’t spend much overseas. In fact, everyone around him was saving money and came home to large bank accounts. I feel that compulsive spending was a result of coping was largely the reason behind their troubles. Even in basic training I’ve heard of people’s money being ransacked by family members. We had another guy that was having such a tough time he would constantly Be hogging the limited phone lines calling his girlfriend and sometimes missing work to call her. Her response to him was “go back to work”. So he was too in love to cope with being away, and disastrously when he went home on leave one of the other soldiers that went to hang out with him and his girlfriend and the guy’s “friend” ended up fooling around with that same girl. Also, of all the girls that were with us overseas, most of them, married or not, had sexual relationships with the men there. It was like many little relationships were forming as a temporary deal until they got home. One in particular had foreign soldiers coming in for visits late at night. It sounds crazy, but if you were there you would understand. Some relationships that started over there, had however, lasted through the years. In general, people at home cannot stay committed for unnatural amounts of time, when they have Opportunistic “Jodie’s” trying their hardest to get with soldiers’ girlfriends back home.
When I went to basic at 17, the first thing I noticed upon arriving home was the social disconnect. Some that were decent friends before you left were mere acquaintances when I came home, some looked at me like I was a stranger after my 10 1/2 week training. It was saddening to lose so many potential friends at a young age. Afghanistan was like 10x that effect. I came home on leave about 7 months into the deployment during Mardi Gras in 2004. I was still 20 so I wasn’t old enough to drink. I remember being at my hometown parade staring from a distance at a familiar girl in a large crowd who I really cared for once upon a time. She was beautiful, and because of the large crowds causing severe anxiety, I couldn’t even approach her. I was on the outside looking in. A little beer wouldn’t have hurt, but I was underage and for once couldn’t access any. Bagram air base was my home for 7 months and it was such a controlled environment a shrink would likely say that I was institutionalized because of that. I’m sure many others with long time friends come home and have that same disconnect, perhaps worse. Like when you have nothing in common with your past, you feel like you have no one to talk to.
When under “total control” especially in basic training, one is exposed to unnecessary shouting, difficult challenges and culture shock. Aside from that there’s an undeniable sense of dehumanization that occurs. Dehumanization is the only thing I can think of when singing cadences involving sniping a mother holding a baby, or burning a kitten with a zippo lighter. I understand that it may be a time tested psychological approach to toughening up young men to make them soldiers. I can recall when I got out of basic training at 17 in August of 2001, those men that I trained with and I were ready for a war. The realization of brainwashing sets in when I find myself telling people, “It would be such an honorable death, if I died while fighting for my country.”
As I grew older, all the feelings deteriorated some, but they are still there for the most part. Soldiers would laugh when it came to the idea of killing someone or pissing on the dead enemy or anything like that, as we seen in the media as well. Even when soldiers had something as horrific and terrifying like underage porn, it was still something laughable or something to joke about.
If someone can devalue someone else’s life, than its easy to see how one would devalue their own life, perhaps even to take their own life.
So now the soldier comes home. He doesn’t leave his gritty and rough lifestyle behind him though, it lingers. No he’s back in the United States, were the dangerous things turn into cyberbullying, unhealthy foods, not wearing a seatbelt, or god forbid drunk driving. We deal with the rapidly growing nanny state, where we need big brother watching over our back. We have TSA agents groping your wife if she doesn’t want to pose naked before every flight. We have laws that forbid young veterans from drinking although it helps when they are shaking with anxiety. We have problems dealing with the emotions of girls or women in general and all they do is care about cute things. We have relationship problems, nightmares, panic attacks from the anxiety disorders that developed.
It is my personal theory that man is part beast and part human. In the Army the bring out the beast so you can kill, you go to war the beast comes out, the beast consumes your life. Then you bring the beast back to society. Now the beast has to be a good sensitive human being, he’s expected to be more emotional and less stern. So then some will assimilate back into society. Some will do everything right, but even if there’s a little bit of that beast left behind, they’ll want to cage you like one. The ones that don’t adapt well when they come home may kill themselves, and you wonder why?
Although it is somewhat a mystery on why soldiers are killing themselves but consider my insight: relationships sexual and personal, regret, problems adapting, losing that innocence, becoming a beast that doesn’t understand the human anymore. The never ending expanding wars, watching your country change, the disconnect, the control, being overburdened, this is why the soldiers are killing themselves. Just a thought.