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:
How has serving impacted you?
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019
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:
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
You drafted my dad as a 26 year old married man. It ruined his marriage. He was exposed to Agent Orange and was recently diagnosed with Lewy body Dementia. I'm hoping the VA steps up and covers his care.
— Rachel Bayne (@SnoPhotos) May 27, 2019
During my brother’s delployment to Iraq last year, a Soldier was shot and killed during an unorganized training event. The leadership shirked all responsibility onto my brother who was simply present. He is now serving 2 years in prison.
— Rochelle LeMire (@RochelleLeMire) May 27, 2019
My father served as a para-medic in Korea and was held prisoner at Chosin. His PTSD led to abuse of myself and my 5 siblings and several of us having PTSD as a result.
— Helen Lea Fowler (@hlfowler81) May 27, 2019
My uncle received 2 Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Nam. Upon coming home, the Army VA refused to see him on countless occasions. PTSD led to drug addictions, which led to him taking his own life in 2007. #MemorialDay #FuckTheArmy
— Your Mother's Onion (@YourMothasOnion) May 27, 2019
he was the sweetest most tender person I’ll ever know and the @USArmy ruined him
— penni on the move (@Pennijj) May 24, 2019
oh wait I have another brother who served also without fighting
he’s been fucked up in the head paranoid and violent for forty years ever since and I don’t even know where he is or if he’s still alive
and the stories he told FROM STATESIDE
— penni on the move (@Pennijj) May 24, 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 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
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
Uncle was drafted into the Vietnam War. Served for two months & began using heroin to deal with killing people. He was exposed to Agent Orange, was dishonorably discharged, & died of an overdose in January of 1981. He was 28.
— Alyssa Picard (@ThatPicard) May 28, 2019
Had a friend who joined the army. Came back telling stories about drug use, sexual assault, bureaucratic nonsense busywork…and that's just from the US base.
— hermitalex (@hermit_alex) May 27, 2019
My sweet BF suffers from severe PTSD, depression and anxiety from 17 years. Things such as turning corners or debris in the road trigger him. We have had our moments because of it, but I’m proud to stand by him through thick and thin because he is the most amazing person I know.
— stephanie burgess (@StephfromSLC) May 27, 2019
People from outside the US responded too:
— Ruba Ali Al-Hassani (@RubaAlHassani) May 25, 2019
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.
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:
We remember things so we don't forget them. On this day, the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we should remember the so-called experts who urged on the war. They have not withered away. They are still with us, still telling us what we should do.
— Peter Maass (@maassp) March 20, 2019
It boggles the mind that the intellectual authors of the Iraq war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and will cost trillions of dollars in the course of time, are doing better than ever. It's an injustice to truth and memory.
— Peter Maass (@maassp) March 20, 2019
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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