Cast Aside

While this article is largely a thinly disguised socialist/communist screed (for instance, this throwaway line ” all of these factors contribute to homelessness in a heartless capitalist society “), it does touch on some important points that most Americans (and I would say many other countries) don’t seem to, or want to, understand: veteran suicide is a large problem. As the article points out:

A consequence of permanent war is an ongoing epidemic in veterans’ suicides. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 6-7,000 American veterans kill themselves every year – a rate of almost one every hour. More soldiers die from their own hands than in combat.

While this is true and the VA study linked is real, what this article doesn’t tell you is that the studies on veteran suicide have very large errors in measurement. One of the difficulties, of course, is that death certificates don’t have a box to check for veteran status (at least not in the United States), thus other proxies are used to estimate the number of suicides that are veterans. Another problem not acknowledged in this article is that only a subset of veterans actually deploy into a combat zone, and even fewer are engaged in actual combat–hence the VFW (veterans of foreign wars), which requires earning a campaign medal, has a much smaller membership base than the American Legion, which, in contrast, requires military service during a time of war (no deployment or campaign medal required). What I am pointing out here is that attribution is assumed in this article, but no one really knows except, perhaps, family members or friends of the deceased.

The above criticisms aside, like all propaganda, there are nuggets of truth in the article that bear witness to the problems of moral injury in combat veterans. The article states:

What the VA, and other studies and research has shown, is that there is a direct link between combat and suicide in veterans and that issues of guilt, regret, shame, etc. occur over and over again in these studies of veterans. Links certainly exist between traumatic brain injury, PTSD and other mental health issues in suicide in combat veterans, but the primary indicator of suicidality in war veterans seems to be moral injury, i.e. guilt, shame, and regret.”

I would concur with the above paragraph. Suicide is a desperate act of a tortured soul that has given up, regardless of whether the suicide is linked to military service. I would also agree with the article that the military and politicians are complicit in abandoning military members after they no longer prove useful. Take, for instance this jewel in the Military Times:

[The] policy will require the services to process members who are non-deployable for 12 consecutive months for admin or disability separation.

We need to acknowledge the actual moral dilemmas war confronts humanity with and its concomitant effect on millions of individual lives–both combatants and civilians alike.