Remember when I predicted not long ago that the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan would lead to a spike in military depression and suicides? What would I know about such things as someone who grew up in a military family myself? As the daughter of a broken Vietnam War veteran who degenerated into alcoholism and abuse and ultimately died in an alcohol-induced car wreck? Well lo and behold that calls to veterans' suicide prevention hotlines are way up since the fall of Kabul. Why, you ask? This sums it up well:
Many veterans have been questioning if their service was all for nothing and whether their friends lost their lives in combat in vain. Many others are grappling with numbness—anger, with the idea that the U.S. military has abandoned the very Afghans they were deployed to protect for nearly two decades.
“I’m talking to other soldiers and morale is at an extreme all time low. We let the Afghans down,” said Dave Kennedy, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq. “We understand that it’s out of our control. It’s a policy decision. [These are] things that are well above our pay grade. But at the end of the day, we were there to protect these people, and we’re no longer there to protect them from the horrors and atrocities that we’re going to see from the Taliban.”
He continued that he was not someone who typically cries—“it’s not a thing I’m proud of or whatever, it’s just kind of who I always have been, I’m not a crier”—but Kennedy said he had “shed more tears over the last week than I have my entire life.”
My point is that it's not just war itself that kills our service members; it can also be the terms of peace. Soldiers and war veterans aren't militarists like generals can be. You will find it to be the case time and again though that our veterans expect the sacrifices expected of them to have been made for some sort of reason; that they made some kind of tangible difference in the world. Most of our soldiers and veterans I guarantee you wanted this war to end too. But not on these terms. Not in the form of very publicly losing all the gains that were made at substantial human cost. To be frank, it makes them feel worthless. This is the result.
When you've made the kinds of sacrifices involved in fighting a war -- when you've lost friends and maybe limbs, marriages, and certainly your mental health -- the terms of peace matter to you. Peace at any price isn't the endgame you want to see realized, but peace with honor. In this sense, you do become attached to the cause on some level. Whether you truly believed in the cause or not, you want all that sacrifice to have been for some kind of reason. You want it to have at least meant something. And you don't want people to think less of you because of your service when you come home. The kind of very public humiliation on the world stage that our service members are enduring right now isn't just unseemly, it's life-threatening.
Suicide is by far the leading cause of death connected to military service and rates are consistently higher for veterans than for other Americans. That's not too surprising when you're routinely exposed to traumatizing situations and taught to suppress your emotions rather than talk about them in response.
I'm sorry for getting overly emotional about the terms of peace in connection to a war I think all of us wanted to see come to an end, it's just a topic that hits really close to home. There's nothing "delicious" about this situation to me.
Last edited by Jaicee - on 02 September 2021