31 December 2009

Suicide Explosion in the US Military

Why do 1 out of every 35 enlisted men and women in the US military attempt suicide every year? Why is physical and sexual abuse inside the military skyrocketing? Why is drug abuse and alcoholism rampant? What about the exploding breakup of families and an exponential rise in divorce? Or how about the massive increase in sexual activity among male and female soldiers - many times in adulterous affairs - while deployed abroad? Meanwhile, back home, 'abandoned' wives have 'Jody' coming in the back door.

What will become of the abandoned children whose fathers are aabsent, not to mention the absolutely shocking absense of mothers who also are soldiers? What are the long-term consequences of all of these factors on society? To the defense contractors, 'perpetual war' has a nice sounding economic ring to it, but to society as a whole, can we afford the spreading circles of violence, confusion and disruption of orderly life now set in motion endlessly?

All militaries throughout the ages have used 'mind control' techniques as a part of 'military training'. This always has included the use of alcohol and other drugs to numb the reality of the murderous business of war. Human beings are not natural cold-blooded killers, but that is exactly what military duty is all about. In the confusion of battle, blood thirty acts of war are viewed as valorous and heroic. Upon return to normal civilian life, many soldiers experience severe regret and profound guilt over the things that they were ordered to do. This can become especially the case when the 'war vet' is unemployed, homeless, debt ridden, injured and alone due to the break up of family.

Where are the marching bands and grand speeches to reaffirm to the 'war vet' that the unspeakable acts of war violence were necessary and for the good of all? After a while, the vet does not feel like a war hero any more. He or she may feel like someone who does not deserve to live. What drug is going to erase the memories? What counsellor is going to make the guilt go away? How pervasive is this syndrome of guilt called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? What are its long-term consequences?

When is the vet going to be able to look his own children in the eye and feel good about the fact that he destroyed other families in other countries just because someone gave the order to "...take out some bad guys." Were those dead children and civilians 'bad guys'? Even if the wars ended tomorrow, what is society going to do with the literally millions of war veterans whose minds have been warped by the violence of modern war? Can they ever find peace, even in a time of peace, if we ever see a time of peace again?

Is this why WAR IS HELL?

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'U.S. Navy Attempted-Suicide Rate Near 3 Percent'

The Navy Times website reported on December 28 that a Defense Department survey of service members for 2008 showed a higher attempted-suicide rate in the U.S. Navy than any other branch of the armed forces.
Sailors attempted suicide at a rate of 2.8 percent, or approximately one out of every 35 sailors. This rate is three times higher than that recorded by the last survey in 2005.In comparison, the next highest attempted-suicide rate was found in the Marine Corps at 2.3 percent. The Army rate followed at 2 percent, and the Air Force rate came in the lowest at 1.6 percent.The
2008 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors Among Active Duty Military Personnel included responses from 28,546 service members. They were randomly selected from all branches of service, including the Coast Guard, and represent a mix of men and women of different ages, races, and ranks.The survey findings show an increase in illegal prescription drug use across the military branches and “dangerous levels” of drinking. The frequency and length of combat deployment “is no doubt playing a part in the stress levels that we’re seeing,” said Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary for clinical and program policy for the assistant defense secretary for health. “It’s a challenging environment.” Smith indicated that since Marines and soldiers are more likely to face close combat, they are exhibiting higher rates of stress-related activities.Illicit drugs, including prescription drugs such as muscle relaxants and painkillers, were used by 28 percent of service members in 1980, but that dropped to 3 percent in 2002. By 2008, such drug use had risen to 12 percent.The reason for this may be that many of those who have been injured have found it difficult to get off their medication; they may still be experiencing pain or may have become addicted. Illegal drug use outside of prescription medication was at 2 percent in 2008. “I think that we’re still trying to determine the meaning of this,” Smith stated. “It’s the first time we’ve drilled down on that as a major issue.”According to the survey, 18 percent of service members reported major family stress, 23 percent said they were stressed by being separated from their families, and 27 percent noted high levels of stress in their work.About 42 percent of respondents reported physical or sexual abuse, with 8 percent saying the abuse had occurred since joining the military. “I think certainly it’s high,” Smith said. “I think we’re disturbed by those results.”Almost 50 percent of female Marines and sailors, and 43 percent of female soldiers, reported feeling stress simply because they are women in the military. Robert Bray, the survey’s chief investigator, noted that this could be due to being a single mother or to leaving behind children at home while they are deployed abroad.“I think the survey results speak for themselves,” declared Bray. “Being one of a minority in a largely male force — particularly in a deployed force — is something we need to be aware of and give some attention to.”It is also time to give some attention to the stress of perpetual war, to fighting in foreign lands with no end in sight. This is certainly taking its toll on America’s fighting forces. Our Founding Fathers warned of the dangers of foreign entanglements and of going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.The men and women in the U.S. military are bravely answering their country’s call to the very best of their ability, but it is time now to call them back home to America.

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