A simple question from the U.S. Army’s Twitter account resulted in a flood of responses they probably weren’t expecting.
Leading up to Memorial Day, the U.S. Army shared a video on their Twitter account showing a soldier’s words about what serving in the military has meant to him.
The young scout, Pfc. Nathan Spencer, says he joined to serve something greater than himself.
“The army has afforded me the opportunity to do just that. To give to others, to protect the ones I love, and to better myself as a man and a warrior.”
Then they asked Twitter the question, “How has serving impacted you?”
Presumably, the U.S. Army was anticipating more positive responses like Private Spencer’s. What they got was a dose of painful reality.
Story after story of trauma, PTSD, abuse, loss, and other tragic outcomes came pouring in.
Americans have a tendency to place the bravery, valor, and duty of military personnel on a pedestal and gloss over the human cost of continually churning out trained soldiers. While our patriotic hearts swell at the sight of young men and women in uniform, there are dark sides to service that we barely talk about. “Thank you for your service,” we say to our military folk, not realizing that the unspoken response is often, “It’s destroying me.”
These responses to the army’s question speak to that reality:
Extreme mood swings due to PTSD, constant pain in my knees and back, inability to to tell the love of my life how I feel, and the nagging want of blowing my own head off daily.
— Southern Fried Homicide (@c4rn3v1l) May 27, 2019
Suffering from PTSD, TBI, a plate and screws holding my arm together from jumping and not being nearly as sociable after returning from Afghanistan; I’m still serving and set to deploy soon. I’ve watched almost all of my friends get discharged from PTSD. So, I check on them often
— Miguel A. (@MaGriff8) May 27, 2019
I was sexually assaulted and discharged at Madigan Army hospital when I reported what happened. My DD214 was impacted, I was not awarded full benefits, I lived in my car, struggled w/ suicide attempts and no self worth. Now, I’m fighting a PTSD claim. #armyofone #metoo #mst
— Elizabeth Grey (@elizamessgrey) May 27, 2019
It made me a better person. It also destroyed me in ways I can’t ever talk about.
— Savannah (@Tinglev) May 28, 2019
as a 100% disabled veteran it’s basically took my whole life. From mental ptsd major depression. Not being able to be around people. Veterans aren’t taken care of enough FINANCIALLY OR MENTALLY. We just thrown away once injured. I joined for a life. Instead I got opposite
— SIX SEVN (@xiSevnn) May 27, 2019
I was sexually assaulted, fought it in court martial and lost. He knows what he did and got away free. The system failed me. Now I suffer from severe anxiety, depression and ptsd symptoms.
— Karly Kathleen😘 (@always_karly) May 28, 2019
My wife and I served in the @USArmy. We spent over 5 years geographically separated from each other. She was sexually assaulted on deployment and kicked out of the army for seeking treatment bc she was then deemed unfit for service. I got out bc her assaulters went unpunished.
— C & B (@johnsoncale1) May 27, 2019
It’s not only the individuals who serve who are impacted. Their loved ones are too.
My cousin was institutionalized for months after his tours in Iraq. He can’t function properly without a shit load of meds daily. The family doesn’t allow him to sleep in the house because he is unpredictable. He sleeps in the shed out back. He has a nice Benz though sooo, yay?🤷🏾♂️
— Treesome Lei 🇯🇲 (@leinova) May 24, 2019
My dad was a VVet and I suffered through his PTSD. I was whipped with a belt for not understanding how to calculate percentages.
— thelearningmama (@polishirishmom) May 26, 2019
My dad served in Vietnam. He was exposed to Agent Orange and I was born with multiple birth defects. What he did impacts my life every day. I can’t have children and I’m in pain constantly.
— Julie Swegman (@BlueChaosFaerie) May 27, 2019
My children’s father used his military leave to periodically return to town to try to kill me and cause other havoc. He was never held accountable. One time he took our son and I haven’t seen him since. I’m sure he’s ok with his service. I’m still traumatized. Thanks.
— Sista Self-care (@PoetRDF) May 27, 2019
My father served in World War II overseas. An African American soldier sent to the Colored Bases. All I know my mother said he was never the same when he came home and when I was 5 he was committed to an institution and I remember us taking that long ride to see him on Sundays.
— de (@spratleydenise) May 28, 2019
My friend from high school joined the Army. Went on deployment and lost his best friend there. Came back with PTSD. Committed suicide in front of his wife by jumping off a moving vehicle on the highway. He was really proud of being a soldier but the Army would never know about it
— Alejandro (@Call_Me_Paco_) May 27, 2019
My father has PTSD. He had to explain to me at 8 why I can’t have a nightlight anymore and the look on his face when I asked “But why do you have one, Dad” still hurts me to this day
— Rainey Scribbles (@RaineyScribbles) May 28, 2019
13 yrs ago my ex came home a bitter, hateful, angry person who was never aided in getting help with PTSD. He constantly snapped at me, blacked out and beat me, and became a raging alcoholic. Now I can’t stand to be touched and jump at loud noises. He’s still serving.
— Helllloooo Nurse (@nurseKMac) May 27, 2019
My best friend joined the army seeking a greater purpose, but has only descended further into alcoholism and mental illness. He hasn’t even seen combat. There’s something very wrong with the images of heroism the army advertises to these impressionable young people.
— Melociraptors 🦐 (@Melociraptors) May 26, 2019
As a mother, I was proud of my son as he signed up to serve his country during his last year of High School. He served 3 deployments in Iraq. That young man with his whole life in front of him is now broken mentally and emotionally beyond recognition and the Army isn’t helpful.
— aunttea (@AuntTea04) May 26, 2019
The responses were an important reminder that military service should not be glorified or prettied up for patriotism’s sake.
These are not rare, isolated incidents. The tweets included here barely scratch the surface of the stories that were shared.
Too many soldiers who see combat come home irreparably broken, or don’t come home at all. Too many families are destroyed by the trauma that people programmed to be killing machines bring back with them from the battlefield. We need to remember that the impact of armed conflict lasts far beyond surrenders and ceasefires.
But as many of these Twitter responses show, it’s not just the soldiers who see combat who struggle with the impact of their service. Even those who are never deployed can also experience trauma in the ranks.
And far too many do not end up getting the emotional, psychological, or financial services they need to live their lives after the fact.
The U.S. Army acknowledged the stories people shared and offered the Veterans Crisis Line for those who need help.
To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019
Perhaps we should honor our military personnel by being real and upfront about their experiences and listening to their struggles. Perhaps we should honor them by advocating for reform in our military systems and by doing all we can to create peace.
Perhaps best way to honor soldiers is to strive to build a world that doesn’t need them.
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