Sunday, October 30, 2011

The cause of military suicides

A statistic that I had a strong hunch was true as soon as I heard it:
The suicide rates are at all time highs and rising in the Army and Marine Corps. Over 70% of the sucides are because a man’s wife or girlfriend is leaving him while deployed to a war zone. She is almost always taking the kids if there are any and quite often( most of the time) depleting (legally stealing) his bank accounts too. She is often enough cheating on him.
Sure enough, the base statistic holds up:
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Peter Chiarelli reviewed investigations on Soldier suicides, which reached a three-decade high in 2008, and reported that in over 70 percent of the cases, “you have one constant, and that was a problem with a relationship.”
Yeah, translate that from the officialspeak and I'm pretty sure that a 'problem with the relationship' when one party is in a combat zone probably looks a lot like the first quote. You can disagree with the agency in the first quote (the woman is 'leaving', and thus is implied to be making the selfish choice), but it probably doesn't change much from the perspective of the man.

But if I had to hazard a guess at the actual agency, let's put it this way - if you're in an all-male combat unit living in a military base overseas, you probably don't have a whole lot of options to pick up women, nor would I imagine that you'd be likely to stop calling your wife at every chance in preference for playing X-Box. It's possible that he slept with a hooker, but the situation of a man in a warzone suddenly deciding he's sick of his wife and wanting to leave... let's just say it sound psychologically less likely than the alternative .

But the problem is not divorce - relationships end for lots of reasons, and given the tendency for military people to marry young, they may have been likely to end that way anyway.

No, the real horror stories are much worse. The first quote comes from some truly repulsive stories of a guy in the Army:
Then of course there was the soldier in my company who had a baby with his wife and she sent him streaming videos via internet of her having sex with other men while his baby son was in the house...
Read on, and be appalled.

The law is necessarily an imperfect instrument for enforcing proper conduct. In other words, laws can never be a substitute for morality. They can circumscribe some of the worst behavior (and much behavior that is completely trivial), but they are a very weak guide for what one ought to do. A society that organises itself around restraining only behaviour that is illegal will quickly turn into rampant misery.

It is illegal to cross at the traffic lights when the walk sign isn't flashing.

It is not illegal to sleep with the wife of a man who is risking getting a bullet in the ass to defend your freedom, nor is it illegal to maliciously screw said wife on camera and send the footage to the husband while he is in a warzone.

If there is any justice in the world, both the man and the woman who did this would be on the receiving end of life-threatening levels of ass-kicking, ideally from the husband himself, but failing that, from friends, family members, or just strangers with an interest in fairness.

Of course, there isn't any justice in the world for this kind of outrage, so both of them will get away with it completely.

Human nature being what it is, people in war zones are sometimes driven mad by the atrocity and horror that they have to witness. But men can be very resilient in dealing with this challenges, knowing that there is a higher purpose to their actions, and having been prepared to face these difficulties.

But to expect them to do all this while their own personal world that they fight and die for is being senselessly lost to them as they're away, and it's their own loved ones who are twisting the knife - that is too much to bear. That is when people lose hope, and wonder what this is all for. And frankly, what would you say to them? Other than the fact that this is all stupendously unjust, and there's nothing that can be done? Plenty of fish in the sea, old chap?

As Eric Bogle sang about war - I never knew there was worse things than dying.

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