Veteran Suicide: the Lasting Cost of War

Arlington National Cemetery memorial day2 wwii_veterans_023

Memorial Day Weekend.

I left this comment on CNN today, responding to Mike Scotti’s article on the Cost of War:

This should be the top story all memorial weekend (it was the last, bottom, story on my tablet today). As a Chaplain for thirty years working with countless people suffering with mental illness, and having conducted dozens of memorial services for people of all faiths and no faith who didn’t survive the “war within,” this article challenges every dramatic distraction in our “news” today. Hypocritical pundits, preachers and politicians who cry out for “our veterans, our heroes” while they ignore their own part in sending them into needless wars and criticizing the President for being “weak” for not starting more wars. . .all while 22 veterans kill themselves each day. Mike’s article should be read on the floor of Congress.

Seriously, we would rather read countless stories about stars and sports and “reality” shows, than face the Unfaceable.  The facelessness of War and its true Cost.

But War DOES have a Face, we just don’t want to look, at the bloody wounds, the anger, the fear, the scar-shaped question marks. . .We can’t stand it, because we see the End of Youth, maybe the End of Humanity.  What is War but the End of Humanity?

Apart from the lasting tragedy of unwinnable wars for all sides, to turn every single veteran into a “Hero” cheapens them, in my mind, and distracts us from the True Reality Show that is this:

1)  We start wars that are neither necessary or “winnable” (“national security” we say)

2)  We stir up “patriotism” so many of our (primarily poorer) youth scramble to sign up

3)  Our politician preachers (many of whom have never fought a war) proclaim it is For God and Country

4)  Thousands of innocent civilians are killed in the “cross-fire” (“collateral”. . .gosh, we’re so sorry)

5)  The “War on Terror” will never end (it seems many don’t want it to end)

6)  Meanwhile (oh, by the way) thousands upon thousands of “Heroes” return to “life in America” which, for many, is a lifetime of suffering or, no surprise (should it be any surprise?), ended, 22 times a day, by a self-inflicted bullet

7)  These thousands fill VA hospitals (and civilian ERs, and shelters, jails and prisons), cared for (and, yes, sometimes forgotten) by more countless nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains. . .

8)  Think of the Family Members, the wives, husbands, daughters and sons, the fathers and mothers and all of them.  They suffer too, every day (and how many of them commit suicide?)

9)  Those who won’t let us forget the Human Cost, the Real COST of War (the faces, the finances, the futility and the increase in fear) are labelled UN-patriotic and “liberal”. . .as if that brushes off all those countless faces and daily suffering

Don’t we, in reality, in truth, in many hidden and not so hidden ways, “Shoot our Wounded”?

This Memorial Day (when I especially remember my father and three uncles who fought in WWII) I know that I will be thinking even more of the 22 rifle I owned as a young boy, and the 22 soldiers who kill themselves each day, who were sent into the Hell of War in my name, by Heaven-minded politicians and preachers who are practiced and skilled at looking away, who love to hide their own faces behind flags and faith.



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