This is a tough article to read, but it is an article that should be read. Those who pound the drums for US military involvement rarely examine its consequences, one of which is what it does to the soldiers. Killing people, some of whom are innocents, seeing your friends wounded and killed, getting wounded yourself, complete confusion, the inability to pinpoint or even see one’s enemies, and the cumulative impact of the noise and percussive shock waves of artillery in battle messes with your head. Especially if you have just reached adulthood and you discover that the grand reasons you joined the military have nothing to do with what happens in the field. The argument still goes on to whether sending US troops to places like Afghanistan and Iraq has been a failure, but there is no argument that the way they are treated when they get back has been reprehensible. From Dave Phillips, at nytimes.com:
Members of a Marine battalion that served in a restive region in Afghanistan
have been devastated by the deaths of comrades and frustrated by the V.A.
After the sixth suicide in his old battalion, Manny Bojorquez sank onto his bed. With a half-empty bottle of Jim Beam beside him and a pistol in his hand, he began to cry.
He had gone to Afghanistan at 19 as a machine-gunner in the Marine Corps. In the 18 months since leaving the military, he had grown long hair and a bushy mustache. It was 2012. He was working part time in a store selling baseball caps and going to community college while living with his parents in the suburbs of Phoenix. He rarely mentioned the war to friends and family, and he never mentioned his nightmares.
He thought he was getting used to suicides in his old infantry unit, but the latest one had hit him like a brick: Joshua Markel, a mentor from his fire team, who had seemed unshakable. In Afghanistan, Corporal Markel volunteered for extra patrols and joked during firefights. Back home Mr. Markel appeared solid: a job with a sheriff’s office, a new truck, a wife and time to hunt deer with his father. But that week, while watching football on TV with friends, he had wordlessly gone into his room, picked up a pistol and killed himself. He was 25.
Still reeling from the news, Mr. Bojorquez surveyed the old baseball posters on the walls of his childhood bedroom and the sun-bleached body armor hanging on his bedpost. Then he took a long pull from the bottle.
“If he couldn’t make it,” he recalled thinking to himself, “what chance do I have?”
He pressed the loaded pistol to his brow and pulled the trigger.
To continue reading: Veterans Try to Save One Another