Salon reports that secret recordings have been released in which one Army psychologist admits that he is under a lot of pressure not to diagnose returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can listen to the recording and read the details here.
But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing. (emphasis mine)
Just days ago, Ann Jones asked “How can we stop the epidemic of killing women and children by returning soldiers?” She notes that the young men we send to war are not the same ones returning home. She doesn’t blame them (several excerpts below, but read the entire post here).
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them “changed” and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans’ services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.
All too often, the war wounds turn into violence against the servicemen’s family members.
Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it’s naturally worse — as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.
When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: “S.F.’s [Special Forces members] don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off…”
As it turns out, the military is not only creating the problem but covering it up.
What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn’t even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.
It is perhaps the same flawed medical evaluation process described above that prevents the cycle of violence from being addressed.
The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the “Black Raptor,” half-man, half-dinosaur.
As the current administration talks of military escalation in Afghanistan in this time of recession, the conversation must address the military personnel coming home. Will they have jobs? Will they be given psychological support and the necessary medical attention to transition home? Or will they be left alone, brain injuries and all, to make sense of their new lives?
No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love. (Ann Jones)