On Thursday, the US Army asked veterans on twitter a simple question, “How has serving impacted you?” As Memorial Day approaches, whoever is in charge of the Army’s social media was probably hoping for some nice responses about all the benefits they think come with serving, college education, the bonds formed with fellow soldiers or the invaluable life experience. But the sad reality that our nations veterans and their families face showed itself in the thousands of heart-breaking replies to the question.
Michael J Neel replied, “26 brothers dead. Only 8 in theater. Psyche ward myself after 3 attempts. Everything we accomplished in Mosul was wasted. Every life we gave was spat on. That’s how serving impacted me.” Veteran Drew Turner said, “Let’s see. Lost the functional use of a hand, developed a rare movement disorder and cancer both likely from burn pit exposure, enjoy sleeping 3 to 4 hours most nights due to nightmares and during the day random anxiety attacks all due to PTSD, 7 herniated discs, arthritis…”
Former Army Chaplain Bill Cork replied, “Given me memories of twelve soldiers who chose suicide, three killed in preventable rollovers, another dozen sexually assaulted, and lots of people and families broken by immoral acts in a war that won’t end.”
Not all the people who replied were veterans themselves, some were friends and family of soldiers who committed suicide. One user, Sandy Almon, said, “My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, re-enlisted, and shot himself in the head.” In a report released by the VA in 2018, it said veterans accounted for 14 percent of the countries suicides in 2016, despite only making up 8 percent of the population. 6,079 veterans took their own lives in 2016 alone.
PTSD is all too common in veterans today; according to the VA’s website 11-20 percent of veterans who had served in Iraq have been diagnosed with PTSD. User Joe Burchett replied, “I spend sleepless nights wracked with guilt because none of the horror and suffering I’ve seen even matters; because we’re all just grist for a pain-mill run by madmen; because if I speak up and say “endless war is wrong” my battle buddies, fighting their own demons, ostracize me.”
Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may have a higher risk of cancer due to exposure to burn pits, where all types of waste and garbage was burned, from IEDs to human waste. User 07Mjf55 mentioned that in their reply, “I served in Iraq across the street from the burn pits. 1 year later I was dx with lupus & 10 years later I was dx w/Stage 3 Breast Cancer. I still can’t get 100% perm & total disability because the VA says “I might get better.” There’s no cure for lupus!”
The thread did not go according to plan, and the US Army went on to do some damage control and tweeted, “To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.” They also tweeted out the phone number to the Veterans Crisis Hotline.
“My cousin committed suicide while on duty at the armory after coming home from a tour abroad.” –Lacy M. Johnson(@lacymjohnson)
“Depression, anxiety, still can’t deal well with loud noises. I was assaulted by one of my superiors. When I reported him, with witnesses to corroborate my story, nothing happened to him. Nothing. A year later, he stole a laptop and was then demoted. I’m worth less than a laptop.” –schmox(@IvoryGazelle)
“My best childhood friend lost his mind after his time in the marines and now he lives in a closet in his moms house and can barely hold a conversation with anyone. He only smokes weed and drinks cough syrup that he steals since he can’t hold a job.” –Mattao Mischief Melly(@Matthew05761231)
“I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years” –Mike Prysner(@MikePrysner)
“I carried half of my best friend to the back of a medic Humvee after an IED killed him. My brother died after a mortar strike on the way to a funeral for another soldier. I have mangled joints, PTSD, hearing loss, and lupus. I’m also unemployed.” –Tybalt Wallace(@SyntaxAgility)
Read thousands more here.