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The US Army asked what serving meant to our soldiers – people don’t hold back

Memorial Day is almost here. We’re asked to remember those soldiers who have fallen or been lost in battle – a sad and somber American tradition that most people spend barbequing, having pool parties, or just generally enjoying an additional day off (for some).

We do need to think of those we have lost. We need to ponder and assess the damage done by America’s persistence in the Middle East and what it’s meant for our soldiers, alive OR dead.

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On May 23rd the Army’s Twitter account asks “How Has Serving Impacted You?” and it’s given us a compilation of the devastation that these wars and the Army has wreaked upon servicemembers and their families. It’s not often that personal stories like this are all gathered together this candidly, as social media gives people the confidence to lose their socially acceptable uber-patriotism and tell the raw truth.

So, let’s REALLY take some time to ask ourselves what we’re left with at the end of the day, as our wars still rage on:

The Army posts a video with their question, showing a young soldier in uniform saying what we’ve heard from past Army commercials: the Army gives me pride and helps my development.

People were quick to reply:

Straight to the point, people let the Army know what it has cost their families. Many spoke about family members who deployed and never came back alive. These are the people that we are supposed to be thinking of during Memorial Day, because nothing says patriotism like knowingly sending our young boys and girls into battle as sacrifices and then making them martyrs for our military. I’m pretty certain most would like to be barbequing with their families rather than being sacrificed for the muddled initiatives we have over in the Middle East.

But people dying in combat is not the only thing we can attribute to the military and the politicians that endorse it. The thread is ripe with personal stories of PTSD, suicidal ideation, and broken family members:

PTSD is an epidemic among our soldiers. Nearly 31% of all Vietnam veterans suffer from it, and even more veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom suffer from it. It wasn’t until very recently that PTSD was seen as a major issue and taken seriously by the VA.

Given that basically 20 veterans commit suicide every day, sometimes in VA hospitals where they should be getting help, these issues have long since needed attention.

The most terrible aspect of this thread is that these men and women were promised a true meaning for their life. They were told they were making a difference, and that their legacies were honorable. The horrible fact is this: they were fighting in a war championed by selfish politicians, and they largely suffered moral injury when they realized that perhaps their honorable mission was an illusion:

This thread obviously spiraled into something the Army’s social media manager hadn’t intended. But it’s good that people are confronting these false ideas, that serving in the military will improve your life. Perhaps it does improve for some, but the data we see coming out of independent studies and even the VA itself shows that we are taking young men and women, with their whole lives ahead of them, and either breaking their bodies or destroying their mental health.

Some of these people who join are so young that they cannot possibly know what seeing the atrocities of war can do to them. The stigmas and the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality leaves them feeling ashamed of their struggles, which leads them to sometimes fix their issues with a bullet (which is what the Army taught them is a solution to problems, after all).

Realizing that their thread went south, the Army attempted to save face by showing that they hear those who spoke up:

 

Resources like the Veteran’s Crisis Line are great. But it would be even better if resources like this weren’t needed so desperately, or that they didn’t serve as a kind of crutch for instances just like this. The root of the problem is war. Endless. War.

So this Memorial Day, when we are enjoying our day off, take a moment to allow your thoughts to go deeper than those that are lost. Think about WHY they had to be lost. With talks of war in Iran, it’s important to be diligent. If we decide to move forward into Iran, we would be in war with EIGHT Middle Eastern countries. These Tweets only paint the picture of misery on one side. There has been countless stories of loss from the other side as well.

To all the veterans and soldiers, thank you for your service.

Let’s hope one day we can redefine patriotism into something less toxic for ourselves and our troops.

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