US army wasn’t ready for outpouring of ‘heart-wrenching’ responses to its ill-thought-out question on Twitter

An image from the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan.
John McEvoy

Not long before Memorial Day, the US army Twitter account asked its followers an ill-thought-out question: “How has serving impacted you?” The responses are horrifying, and reveal a side of war rarely seen in the media.

“How has serving impacted you?”

The question came on 23 May, just days before the national holiday to remember and honour those who died serving:

 

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The question was likely designed as a marketing tool for the US army, which is notorious for posting bloodthirsty tweets across social media. But it soon seemed to backfire.

Here are some of the thousands of responses that the PR team probably didn’t expect:

People from outside the US responded too:

Opening people’s eyes

Though each war has its particular consequences, there are some common themes that run through the responses: PTSD, suicide, depression, drug and substance abuse, broken relationships, trauma, inadequate access to mental and physical healthcare, abuses of power, sexual assault, anxiety, isolation, and death. The list of damages could go on.

Brian Trautman is a former national board member and current Albany president of Veterans for Peace. He spoke to The Canary in a personal capacity about the Twitter responses, saying:

The heart-wrenching testimonials shared by the military community (soldiers, veterans, retirees and their family members and friends) to the U.S. Army’s question should open everyone’s eyes to the enormous and tragic human costs of militarism/war. These are the stories and accounts you rarely hear in the mainstream media or from elected officials, who frequently whitewash the devastating and long-lasting consequences of military service.

Instead, we tend to hear this service mechanically touted and glorified with words like ‘honor,’ ‘courage’ and ‘sacrifice.’ The heartfelt responses we read here reflect the physical, emotional and psychological pain, torment and loss that the military community has endured, and continues to endure, because of an unrestrained military-industrial complex, belligerent foreign policy and endless war machine. May these impassioned calls for awareness, understanding, and change turn the tide of our culture and society, away from militarism/war and toward peace.

Remember all this when self-interested politicians push for more war

As the US government pumps ever-more money into its military apparatus, it is simultaneously going to extreme lengths to punish those that reveal abuses as well as privatising health care services for veterans. And without any significant change, this will ensure that the types of harrowing stories shared across Twitter will multiply.

This, it seems, is worth remembering on Memorial Day. And as war journalist Peter Maass writes in the incredible thread below, we should also “remember the so-called experts” who pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

Western aggression is met too often with impunity, meaning the same catastrophic errors will be made over and again. Meanwhile, the corporations that make billions from war keep pretending to honour the lives from whose ruin they profit.

This outpouring of anti-war sentiment shows that any peace movement should have veterans at its forefront.

Featured image via Sergeant Joseph R. Chenelly

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    1. Its a good thing the military can’t censor Twitter. It appears the Generals in charge of the military ideology are the brainwashed ones while their soldiers actually have real life experience with the insane consequences of war. Imagine with all their wealth , and what America uses it for in war has to be a lesson in animal behavior devoid of the imprint of a human culture.

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