Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Shame of the Military, Power of the Press
I'm not an activist. The only social commentary I've ever posted here was the piece on gun control. But a series of articles in Colorado Springs' newspaper, The Gazette, is compelling me to make an exception. I think every person in the United States (and anyone in the whole world who might be interested) should read these articles. Here is the link:
Other than Honorable http://cdn.csgazette.biz/soldiers/
"A Gazette investigation shows an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, are being kicked out of the service for misconduct, often with no benefits, as the Army downsizes after a decade of war."
We hear so much about our moral obligations to take care of our returning soldiers and pay honor to them, and we do a pretty good job when there is nothing wrong with them or when they have injuries below the neck. But in this day of PTSD and TBI, the worst side of our so-called "human" nature can emerge. War dehumanizes its participants, and apparently this happens even to those who don't fight and have the responsibility of caring for the soldiers who did.
Soldiers often return less than perfect -- they are no longer "normal," and humanity does have a loathing and a fear of the "abnormal." We used to stick "crazy" people away in institutions, chained to walls. You know what? We still do that, only today it's isolation cells where they can be ignored, or we send them out on the street without medication or health insurance, chained to the wall of their trauma.
And we make them jump through hoops of red tape -- it can take months to get a medical discharge from the Army and in the meantime the unit can't replace its ineffective member. Most of the soldiers in question have committed some kind of prosecutable infraction like an instance of drug use, or repeatedly being late to duty, or theft, or DUI, or more seriously beating their wife. Their behavior is not attributed properly since TBI is hard to diagnose, and the determination is often left to immediate superiors who aren't qualified to make such judgments and treat the subjects with callous scorn, like they were garbage. Often they end up in the county jail, suffering seizures without medication.
So there's something called a Chapter 10 discharge, and exhausted TBI survivors are sometimes coerced into accepting this. Chapter 10 is a less-than-honorable discharge that's effective almost immediately, but it requires the soldier to resign in lieu of prosecution and lose all his benefits. So now we have a soldier who is dangerously traumatized, without money, without medical benefits, without support, often on the street. But the military is rid of him and of their responsibility for him, and it can go out and recruit new wide-eyed patriotic youngsters, and proceed to traumatize them in turn.
Of course there will always be people who fake PTSD and try to work the system, but wouldn't it be more worthy of our humanity -- of the qualities of compassion and empathy that are supposed to distinguish us from our animal brothers -- if we erred on the side of compassion and gave everybody the benefit of the doubt? Rehabilitation should be motto -- of the military as well as of humanity in general -- punition or vengeance or indifference have no place in the treatment of those who have suffered in the service of our world, or for any reason.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the human beings on the Earth suddenly laid down their weapons and refused to fight? Maybe we could get rid of war. But, unfortunately, Earthers are a contentious lot, and even in my vision of the future, where real wars don't exist, Earth still needs a Security Force to insure peace.
What will happen to people like the soldier in the Gazette's final article, who has stated that he wants to take his thick case file to Washingon, dump it on the steps of the Capitol, and then set himself on fire? Will it take something like that to get attention?
Please do go the link above and read these articles. They are long, but they are worth it. At least read one of them. And I hope the Gazette wins awards for investigative reporting for this series. The newspaper certainly deserves it.