Will We Ever Know Why Soldier Killed Five?

Stress is a word much in the news lately with the economic crisis responsible for much of it. Yet the US Army sergeant who allegedly killed five of his fellow soldiers at a counseling center in Iraq should make us all think long and hard about its consequences. The incident took place, ironically, at a center where soldeisr can come to get help with just that issue, stress.

Those of us who think things are tough here (and they are) should stop for a minute and think about what life is like for soldiers fighting overseas. Many have been subject to the military’s stop loss policy, which in many cases extends their tours of duty just at the time they were looking forward to coming home.

The particulars of this incident, as told by military officials both on and off the record, show that the alleged shooter got into a verbal altercation at the center. His weapon was taken from him at that time for his own safety. He later returned with another weapon. There are conflicting reports about whether he was ordered back to the center, or came of his own volition. It’s also not known what if any relation the shooter had to his victims, five US soldiers just like him.

This we do know. The military is dealing with increasing numbers of stress cases among soldiers both in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are studies suggesting that 15% of  soldiers returning from Iraq do so  with some type of emotional problem. We also know that the military will promise a full investigation and a long look at how to alleviate stress among the troops. Will it work? Will the effort last past the time this incident fades from memory?

One other thing is for sure. Third and fourth combat tours of Iraq and Afghanistan should end, and end fast. It’s difficult for most civilians to imagine what it’s like to function under the minute by minute fear that your next move could be your last. To live that way for extended periods of time invites stress, and at times extreme reactions to it.

Our men and women in uniform are performing an extraordinary service to the people of this country. We need to make sure the military doesn’t make it any more difficult than it needs to be. None of this, of course, excuses the outright murder of five people, in or outside the military.

But it should put our stress in perspective, shouldn’t it?

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3 Comments

  1. I heard the guy who shot others at the Center was on his 3rd tour. I think it was on Free Speech Radio News on WBAI 99.5FM last night. http://www.fsrn.org The journalist is one who has covered veterans’ health issues for a long time. As one general said, “It’s about keeping people in battle” (I paraphrase.) The military way of handling PTSD of military people sounded more “macho” at one facility (the word was used), than in giving mental health treatment. Another factor is sending people who are unfit for military duty back into combat zones, and letting folks who would previously have not qualified, for mental health previous issues, enlist and sent to battle. To get off the false patriotism hyperbole we hear from government and get the military personnel real treatment, recognition that mental illness and PTSD is REAL (and pay for benefits and treatment) would help a lot. It might help curb the growing suicide rate among troops.

  2. Yes, it was Aaron Glantz reporting on FSRN.

  3. Hi Mark and readers. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the stress that some of these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been placed under. I can only relate what I experienced in a simple session of paintball a few weeks ago. Given army fatigues, helmet and a high powered air gun full of paint pellets I spent 4 hours in the heat playing war games. What I thought was going to be a fun day of shooting at my friends turned out to be an eye opening experience of what being on the front line in war would be like. Split into teams, we had to work together to defeat the opponents. Well that was the objective but with adrenalin pumping and paint bullets flying everywhere, in the end I just fired at anything that moved. In the first game, I was hit 5 times 3 in the face. I realized if I was an actual soldier I would have been dead with in seconds of combat . I didn’t even see the paint balls coming at me, everything was flying around so fast and people were yelling and running. Fun turned to fear and I just fired at anything and everything, it was no longer about teams it was about survival. By the time the 4 hours was up I was bruised from head to toe. I spent the next few days analyzing my indifference to footage I had seen on the news of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I just didn’t get it before . That experience gave me a minute glimpse into what soldier’s lives are like everyday and it was frightening. I can still feel my fear returning when I think about the moment I was hit by the first paintball and the shock I felt of actually being hit. God knows what it would be like having to deal with it for real. I can imagine soldiers would block events out of their minds for survival sake but it is still lurching there, in the shadows waiting. God bless them.


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