When the Enemy You Kill Is Yourself, by Doug Olson

“Soldiers can suffer from moral injury.  Moral injury is ‘the harmful aftermath of exposure to events which ‘transgress deeply held beliefs and expectations.’ Such events include the unjustified taking of life in war.”   

By Doug Olson  WAMM Newsletter  Vol. 37  Num. 5  Fall 2019

The military is considering a proposal to lower the recruitment age to 16 to counter sagging enlistment numbers.  One proponent of lowering the recruitment age is Shane McCarthy, the chief marketing officer of Sandbox, a platform used by military service members.  McCarthy briefs and advises numerous military recruitment commands.[1]

In his Military Times article advocating lowering the recruitment age to 16, McCarthy notes 16- year-olds are more likely to consider military service than 18-year-olds, recruiting younger teens is less expensive than recruiting young people in their late teens and early twenties, and 15- to 17-year-olds are half as likely to have arrest records than 18- to 20-year-olds.  McCarthy approvingly notes Canada and the United Kingdom permit 16-year-olds to serve in their militaries.

Preying on 16-year-olds to make up for the military’s lagging recruitment is appalling.  One of the reasons this proposal is so disgusting is because it would expose young people to a greater risk of suicide.

The number of suicides in the military increased from 285 in 2017 to 325 in 2018.  The suicide rate grew from about 22 suicides per 100,000 service members to about 25 suicides per 100,000 service members.  The active duty suicide rate has risen an average of six percent every year over the past five years.

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Of all the military components, the Army National Guard had the highest suicide rate. 118 Army National Guard soldiers committed suicide in 2018.  The suicide rate in the Army National Guard is 35.3 suicides per 100,000 service members, much higher than the 22.4 per 100,000 rate among civilian young men in 2017.[2]

While the Military Times article does not discuss the reasons behind the high rates of suicide among Army National Guard soldiers, undoubtedly many of the suicides can be attributed to repeated deployments to fight in the endless U.S. wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that many veterans suffer due to their horrific experiences in war.

 

 

The Thinker (Le Penseur), detail of the bronze sculpture, La Porte de l”Enfer (Gates of Hell), 1880-1890, Auguste Rodin.

Soldiers can suffer from moral injury.  Moral injury is “the harmful aftermath of exposure to events which ‘transgress deeply held beliefs and expectations.”[3]  Such events include the unjustified taking of life in war.  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs research finds that soldiers who suffer moral injury as a result of war crimes they commit or witness have an increased risk of suicide.  Soldiers who commit unjustified killings are the most likely to suffer from severe PTSD.[4]

The military will never tell young people considering enlistment about the disproportionately high rates of suicide in the military.   Peace activists should share this disturbing information with young people to discourage them from joining the military.

Peace Activists Firmly Oppose Military Recruitment of Youth

The peace vigil outside Camp Ripley in Little Falls, Minnesota, is a good example of peace activists taking a stand against the military recruitment of young people.  On Sunday, September 15, 2019, around 36 peace activists held a vigil outside Camp Ripley to counter Camp Ripley’s pro-war propaganda fest known as Open House Day.  Among the peace activists were members of Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace (BACP), Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), Veterans for Peace (VFP), and the Minnesota Anti-War Committee (AWC), as well as longtime peace activist and semi-retired priest Father Tony Kroll, and four Little Falls Franciscan Sisters. In stark contrast to Camp Ripley’s pro-military theme, vigil participants held signs and banners reminding Open House Day visitors “War Is Terrorism” and “War Kills Kids.”

Remarkably, the Camp Ripley peace vigil received more positive than negative responses from passersby.  Many passersby, including several National Guard soldiers, honked their horns, gave thumbs up, or made peace signs. This was the first time a peace vigil at Camp Ripley received such a positive response.  The positive response is indicative of the war-weariness a majority of Americans, including a majority of Iraq and Afghan War veterans, feel.[5]

ACTION:

Peace activists can translate this antiwar feeling into a stronger movement and make a special appeal to young people as they are targeted by the military for recruitment. Join the Camp Ripley Peace Vigil in September of 2020.

Doug Olson is a member of Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace.  He can be reached at djo819@hotmail.com

ENDNOTES
[1] “Most Veterans Say Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Weren’t Worth It: Pew Report”  Oriana Pawlyk.  Military.com  Wednesday, July 10, 2019. tinyurl.com/y23j2xn4
[2] Active Duty suicides are on the rise, as the Pentagon works on new messaging and strategy”  Meghann   Myers.  Military Times. September 26, 2019. https://tinyurl.com/v5jv4bh
More details on the National Guard suicide rate: “The National Guard’s suicide rate has surpassed the other military components”  Meghann Myers.  Military Times. September 26, 2019. tinyurl.com/y5pwsh3n
[3] “Moral Injury in the Context of War”  Shira Maguen, PhD and Brett Litz, PhD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  PTSD: National Center for PTSD. tinyurl.com/yyqf5zu6
[4] Ibid no. 3
[5] “Most Veterans Say Iraq, Afghanistan Wars Weren’t Worth It: Pew Report”  Oriana Pawlyk.  Military.com  Wednesday, July 10, 2019. tinyurl.com/y23j2xn4

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The contents of Rise Up Times do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor. Articles are chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Rise Up Times republishes articles from a number of other independent news sources as well as original articles and stories.

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