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Why So Many Military Suicides?

More active-duty military personnel and veterans of post 9/11 wars have committed suicide than the number of military personnel killed in combat since then. Why are so many veterans and active-duty military personnel killing themselves?

I thought that all members of the military were heroes? I thought that service members were anointed by God? I thought that they were God’s gift to humanity? (Go to a conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist church on the Sunday before Memorial Day and see what I mean.) I thought that veterans were a special class of people? I thought that veterans were a cut above the rest of us? I thought they were the cream of the crop? Aren’t veterans practically worshipped on Veterans Day? (Go to a conservative, evangelical, or fundamentalist church on the Sunday before Veterans Day and see what I mean.) Aren’t businesses told that they should hire veterans because they have so much to offer? Aren’t members of the military idolized and held up as role models for our children? Isn’t serving in the military the most honorable thing that an American can do?

So why so many military suicides?

According to an organization called Warrior Call that fosters “connectivity among active-duty service members and veterans in an attempt to identify those who are isolating themselves”:

  • Among current service members, a total of 377 active-duty personnel died by suicide in 2020. That number is up from 348 in the prior year.
  • For veterans, after adjusting for sex and age, veteran suicide rate was 27.5 per 100,000 individuals in 2018, up from 25.8 per 100,000 two years earlier. By comparison, among all U.S. adults, the suicide rate per 100,000 is much lower at 18.3.
  • More U.S. vets have died by suicide in the last 10 years than service members who died from combat in Vietnam. The statistics are particularly troubling among post-Sept. 11 veterans and active-duty service members and are between 18-years-old and 34-years-old. Their suicide rate is 2.5 times that of all civilians.
  • A recent Brown University report estimates that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of these wars have died by suicide, far more than the 7,057 service members killed in the Global War on Terrorism.

Veterans organizations are urging Congress to establish National Warrior Call Day, a national holiday on the Sunday after Veterans Day (as if we need another military appreciation day), to “draw attention to those service members, veterans and first responders who may be dangerously disconnected from family, friends and support systems and who may be spiraling into suicidal thoughts.”

So why so many suicidal thoughts?

It is certainly not the case that military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan over the past twenty years have not been given a heroes welcome, thanked and praised for their service ad nauseam, given free food at restaurants on Veterans Day, given military discounts at stores every day of the year, put on a pedestal, applauded on airplanes, given preference in hiring, and practically worshipped during church services.

So why so many military suicides?

Could it be because military life is so destructive to families?

Could it be because the purpose of the military has been perverted?

Could it be because of the huge number of sexual assaults in the military?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers don’t actually defend the United States?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers make widows and orphans?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers are sent where they have no business going?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers engage in offense while calling it defense?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight unjust wars?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers carry out a reckless, belligerent, and meddling foreign policy.

Could it be because U.S. soldiers die in vain and for a lie?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight wars that are not constitutionally declared?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight foreign wars?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers invade and occupy other countries?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers only pretend to defend our freedoms?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight immoral wars?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers are merely pawns in the hands of Uncle Sam?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers leave collateral damage in their wake?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers maim and kill foreigners who were no threat to any American?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight unnecessary wars?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers destroy foreign industry, culture, and infrastructure for no good reason?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers only pretend to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers fight senseless wars?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers help to create terrorists, insurgents, and militants?

Could it be because U.S. soldiers are a global force for evil?

Could these things have anything to do with military suicides, or do we just need to spend more money on veterans’ health care, expand military benefits, and increase the defense budget?