Saturday, September 19, 2015

Combat and Suicide

The sad, sad story of the the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment:
He thought he was getting used to suicides in his old infantry unit, but the latest one had hit him like a brick: Joshua Markel, a mentor from his fire team, who had seemed unshakable. In Afghanistan, Corporal Markel volunteered for extra patrols and joked during firefights. Back home Mr. Markel appeared solid: a job with a sheriff’s office, a new truck, a wife and time to hunt deer with his father. But that week, while watching football on TV with friends, he had wordlessly gone into his room, picked up a pistol and killed himself. He was 25. . . .

Almost seven years after the deployment, suicide is spreading through the old unit like a virus. Of about 1,200 Marines who deployed with the 2/7 in 2008, at least 13 have killed themselves, two while on active duty, the rest after they left the military. The resulting suicide rate for the group is nearly four times the rate for young male veterans as a whole and 14 times that for all Americans.

The deaths started a few months after the Marines returned from the war in Afghanistan. A corporal put on his dress uniform and shot himself in his driveway. A former sergeant shot himself in front of his girlfriend and mother. An ex-sniper who pushed others to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder shot himself while alone in his apartment.

The problem has grown over time. More men from the battalion killed themselves in 2014 — four — than in any previous year. Veterans of the unit, tightly connected by social media, sometimes learn of the deaths nearly as soon as they happen. In November, a 2/7 veteran of three combat tours posted a photo of his pistol on Snapchat with a note saying, “I miss you all.” Minutes later, he killed himself.
All those Republicans eager to send ground troops to Syria or back into Iraq ought to be reading Dave Phillips' story.
“You come back and try to be a normal kid, but there is always a shadow on you, a dark shadow you can never take away.”


G. Verloren said...

I have to wonder how many World War II veterans commited suicide after the war, but given the times and the nature of media and social propriety back then, it never got talked about. Or if present day veterans are uniquely suffering compared to earlier in the century, what might be different between then and now?

Was it the greater economic opportunity for returning veterans after WWII? Was it some difference in the makeup of units, with men previously often serving with others from their own hometowns and regions, and the survivors all returning together rather than splitting apart once it all ends? Was it that the toll of the war had been felt more keenly even among civilians at home, and returning veterans were less isolated from their communities because everyone had collectively suffered, even if to greater or lesser degrees?

Or was it perhaps due to a greater sense that the war had been a just one, and that a true victory had actually been achieved? That the men who fought and died in the mud halfway across the world had not suffered and sacrificed in vain? That it wasn't all a colossal waste of time, money, life, and dignity that ultimately did more harm than good?

pootrsox said...

I think, Mr or Ms Verloren, that the answer is likely "all of the above."