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Saturday, February 6, 2010


An article The War Inside in the December 2009 issue of The American Legion Magazine (ALM) coupled with an article by NBC News Services on the internet in November 2009, both addressed the high number of suicides in the military, which motivated me to finally write this article. I say finally, because this subject of mental illness on the part of veterans has been on my mind for the more than 30 years since I first became aware of the disproportionate number of Vietnam veterans in psychiatric care.

What caused the high rate of mental disorder among Vietnam veterans and what causes the high rate of suicide among today’s service personnel? These conditions are related; mental disorder leads to suicide. If we deal with the first the second will be alleviated.

The ALM article also pointed out that the United States has 33,000 estimated suicides each year and that number might be under-estimated by 25 to 50 percent. That should not come as a surprise. The World Health Organization announced that the number one health issue of England, the United States, and Canada is mental illness. The French take anti-depressants at a rate two and half times that of the British; one can only imagine the incidence of mental illness in France. Western society has not only accepted mental illness, the malady has become a norm.

The above statistics serve as background for the issue of mental illness and suicide among our service personnel and veterans who are part of a mentally unhealthy society. Unlike an authority quoted in ALM I do not feel considerable research is required. Societies that have a strong family orientation have low levels of mental illness and suicide. Those societies give people a sense of belongingness. It teaches them the ethics required for positive moral conduct. Western society has destroyed family and is paying the price in the form of increased mental illness and other devastating societal issues.

In focusing more on the military I will first address the passing reference made by the articles to female suicide, which indicated more data was needed on its incidence and more research on its causes. God designed women with the psyche, minds, and bodies necessary to bring life into this world and nurture it. To teach this creation how to kill rather than bring forth life is contrary to its nature and will cause many problems. Do we really need research to support that conclusion?

Why do women enter the military? I remember seeing in the newspapers a picture of a mother in fatigues, helmet and carrying full pack leaving her two infants behind for a tour in Iraq and the caption quoting her words “I need the money.” Is that what the army now consists of; female mercenaries who will kill for money? I thought the reason that men went to war was to protect the motherland, to protect women, children, and future generations. Now that women are going off to war what are we fighting for? Let’s remember that question further on in this essay.

The female soldier’s focus on the motivation of money runs contrary to the natural call to arms. Serving one’s country traditionally consists of giving up ones job for subsistence level wages in the military. During World War II the pay for privates was $21 a month. A humorous song written about Army wages had lyrics that went “$21 a day once a month.” I can remember when my motivation came to enlist in the Navy in 1953. I was employed and well paid as a Merchant Officer with the Military Sea Transportation Service and traded that position in for what was then a low level of pay as a Lieutenant junior grade. I never calculated the pay loss for the two years in which I served on active duty. I considered it a privilege, honor, and duty to serve my country. My father before me enlisted in The American Expeditionary Force in World War I, not for money but as a sense of duty for the new land that gave him opportunity.

Now we have mercenaries defending us.

The nature of warfare has also changed considerably over the years. In World War I enemy combatants would often meet after artillery attacks and share a smoke together. Then they would shake hands, go back to their trenches and do what they had to do. There was a sense of comraderie and an understanding that each man had a family at home that loved him; he wanted to survive and didn’t want to kill any one.

That sense of comraderie with the enemy diminished in World War II when the allied war policy consisted of inflicting as much harm as possible to the civilian population of the enemy with the aim of breaking their will to continue the conflict. American planes killed 150,000 in one bombing in Hamburg and British planes killed 250,000 during another bombing in Dresden. A few hundred thousand Japanese bodies went up in smoke in Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the killing of 500,000 civilians by conventional bombing.

The inflicting of civilian casualties has continued as a part of American combat policy in the Far East. The spraying of Agent Orange and Napalm indiscriminately on the countryside in Vietnam contributed to the 14.25 million casualties in a nation of less than 50 million people.

No well-balanced and rational human being wants to kill or inflict bodily damage on another human being; to do so runs counter to his basic nature. It breaks one of the great commandments. It is one thing to drop bombs on people and not see the resulting blood and gore that results from that action. It is quite another thing to pull the trigger on the gun that kills people or throw the grenade that maims them.

For the sake of this article let’s say that the enemy deserved what they got; we were the good guys and they were the bad guys. But what about us? What has happened to the good guys who inflicted all these casualties on the enemy? The memory of the slaughter of civilians is burned deep in the minds and psyches of the soldiers; it cannot be removed and accounts for many of the psychiatric problems of Vietnam veterans.

It’s one thing to go into combat and do the dirty work required if one has a sense that this activity is helping to protect a way of life he believes in. However, when we get back to the question asked earlier “Now that women are going off to war, what are we fighting for?” the answer becomes more difficult to reach. As our soldiers in the Middle East become aware that increasing numbers of their buddies become afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they return to the States, frequently lose custody of their children, and not infrequently end up in prison, they are less inclined to think that it was all worth fighting for.

The situation continues to worsen for our young soldiers. We lure teenagers off the basketball courts and into uniform, psyche them up with KILL, KILL, KILL indoctrination, and turn them loose on other teenagers who maybe were playing basketball or soccer that afternoon. Whether the civilians were killed on purpose, by accident, or in self-defense, the effect on our young soldiers is devastating.

Deprogramming the KILL, KILL, KILL, indoctrination does not come easy and results in questionable success. We are destroying the flower of youth of those in our military. Most efforts to address this issue focus on effects and not causes. It is time that veterans organizations, which always rally to the support of our service personnel, address the underlying causes of why our young men and women are having increasing mental health issues.

Training women to kill is unnatural. Training men and women to kill civilians is unnatural. Having military campaigns without clearly defined objectives is unnatural. Not having strong reasons for protecting our way of life is unnatural. Reducing military service to a high paid job classification is unnatural. Prolonged exposure to an unnatural lifestyle produces mental illness whether in the military or out of it.

The time has come to analyze our lifestyle. Living a natural way of life decreases mental illness and the resulting incidence of suicide.

Note: The mass killing of civilians has reached such an acceptance in Western society that when conducted in the film Avatar no critical condemnation occurred. However, Pandora (the enemy) also had warrior women and a lack of family activity. The film depicted two unnatural, androgynous oriented, and purposeless societies neither of which warranted fighting and dying for.


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