Sad story in the Times, which has been tracking the veterans of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines because of the wave of suicides that followed their 2008 deployment in Afghanistan:
After surviving some of the bloodiest combat in Afghanistan, the men of the 2/7 stayed connected on social media for support at home as they grappled with the fallout of war.
It was a rough transition to civilian life. Many men were disillusioned about why they fought; others struggled with post-traumatic stress. Suicide stalked their ranks. Those close online connections offered something the veterans’ health care system did not: common ground, understanding, friends ready to talk day or night.
But the connections that held strong through all those troubles have been frayed to breaking by the partisan rancor of 2020. The Facebook group the men once relied on for support is now clogged with divisive memes and partisan conspiracy theories, disputes over policing and protests, and, of course, strong views on the president.
The din has driven a growing number of members to log off in dismay. Many say they still want to support their fellow Marines but cannot stand the toxic political traffic. . . .
“It hurts my soul to see all this childish drama,” said Keith Branch, a former infantryman from the battalion. “Brothers that formed bonds in war, I see them becoming broken over childish arguments. I disconnect from it — I’m already dealing with post-traumatic stress. It hurts too much to look at it.”
In 2015, veterans of the battalion’s combat deployments had a suicide rate 14 times the national average, and Mr. Branch, who lives in Texas, helped to set up the rapid response network of volunteers who could race to the scene when a fellow battalion veteran was contemplating suicide. The group made several critical interventions to save lives.
Now, he said, members of the Facebook group are much less willing than before to open up about their feelings amid the partisan hostility, and real discussion about the fallout of combat has grown rare.
“People are saying they are never going to talk to each other again, and calling each other names,” said Mr. Branch, who voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, in 2016 and does not plan to vote this year. “I don’t get it. We went to war to fight extremism. I don’t understand why we can’t find common ground.”
Another Marine says:
There are many stories of battle buddies that fought together in combat together, and now they won’t talk because of politics. It’s heartbreaking.There is my summary of America in 2020. The pandemic is a crisis, but it might have pulled us together in some ways. I have had many little bonding moments talking to near strangers about the weirdness of the times: grocery store clerks, the Home Depot guy who couldn't find the gas pipe fitting I needed, other office types now working from home. But whatever bonding we have gotten out of it has been at least balanced by our need to fight about it, because we feel some need to fight about everything. Not even the famous bonds formed between soldiers who fought together can survive the divisions of America today.
“I don’t understand why we can’t find common ground.”