Soldier suicide is an intractable problem. The rate is double the civilian population. We lose a few soldiers daily to it.
The life of a soldier is fairly chill when the world is somewhat quiet. But 2001 saw the advent of endless war for America. And it’s like going to another planet after experiencing regular garrison life.
You watch your friends die. You get shot at daily. You kill. And you can’t quit when you are in over your head. You are under contract to continue to fight.
War sucks. It changes you, fills you with fear and despair. I am not surprised that some soldiers choose the only out they have. They are not chicken, they are not weak. Some troops are just better at covering up the mental and spiritual wounds visited upon them by being in combat. It’s been my experience that some part of the veterans who still stand and function after combat is dead. The fighting soldier who does not die by his own hand has usually had something killed inside them. Death reaps all of them in part or whole.
They have one of the hardest jobs imaginable when they are at war. And I don’t say this because of books I’ve read or movies I’ve watched. I was in the Medical Corps and served as a transition officer for wounded soldiers who needed to leave the service or stay in a safe environment until they were healthy enough to rejoin their unit. Some had obvious wounds, the physical ones. With others, and this was the majority of the people I processed, there were dark places that I was not allowed to enter with them when we interacted. The looks on their faces changed when talk turned to their job. Their nerves became taut. They’d stutter. Once convivial men and women became lost in despair.
If there’s one group of people that benefit from believing in a merciful god, it’s soldiers. There’s a reason they have a corps of chaplains. You all know how I feel about religion, but I also believe in what John Lennon counseled-whatever gets you through the night is alright.
I’m a bit conflicted about this new report that Marines consider loss of faith an indicator of a soldier in crisis.