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article imageMany veterans say serving has impacted them negatively

By Ken Hanly     May 28, 2019 in World
Last Thursday the US Army tweeted a simple question "How has serving impacted you?" As Memorial Day was the following Monday perhaps the Army's social media hoped that many replies would relate the benefits of serving. The response was different.
There were many negative replies
The replies varied with some being positive but negative responses were also common. The tweet and responses can all be found here.
Veteran Drew Turner said: “Let’s see. Lost the functional use of a hand, developed a rare movement disorder and cancer both likely from burn pit exposure, enjoy sleeping 3 to 4 hours most nights due to nightmares and during the day random anxiety attacks all due to PTSD, 7 herniated discs, arthritis…”
Army chaplain BIll Cork said that serving had given him memories of 12 soldiers who chose suicide, three killed in preventable rollover, a dozen sexually assaulted, and many people and families broken by immoral in a war that doesn't end.
Many relatives and friends responded
One relative said: “My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, re-enlisted, and shot himself in the head.” OEF stands for Operation Enduring Freedom described by Wikipedia as follows: "Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was the official name used by the U.S. government for the Global War on Terrorism. On October 7, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced that airstrikes targeting Al Qaeda and the Taliban had begun in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom primarily refers to the War in Afghanistan, but it is also affiliated with counterterrorism operations in other countries, such as OEF-Philippines and OEF-Trans Sahara."
The operation was ended in December of 2014 by then US president Obama but Afghan operations continued under the official name of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and continues to this day.
Many of those who serve commit suicide many more than the percentage of military personnel in the population. Military personnel make up 8 percent of the population but a Veteran's Affairs study showed that they account for 14 percent of the suicides. In 2016 6,079 veterans committed suicide.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) is common in veterans
Military service is a risk factor for developing PTSD. According to the Veteran's Affairs website 11-20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq have been diagnosed with PTSD. This shows up in the responses to the question. Joe Burchett a veteran said: “I spend sleepless nights wracked with guilt because none of the horror and suffering I’ve seen even matters; because we’re all just grist for a pain-mill run by madmen; because if I speak up and say “endless war is wrong” my battle buddies, fighting their own demons, ostracize me.”
Tybalt Wallace said in reply: “I carried half of my best friend to the back of a medic Humvee after an IED killed him. My brother died after a mortar strike on the way to a funeral for another soldier. I have mangled joints, PTSD, hearing loss, and lupus. I’m also unemployed.”
There is also a higher risk of cancer for veterans
Veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq often had exposure to burn pits where all kinds of waste and garbage was burned often giving off toxic fumes. One response said: “I served in Iraq across the street from the burn pits. 1 year later I was dx with lupus & 10 years later I was dx w/Stage 3 Breast Cancer. I still can’t get 100% perm & total disability because the VA says “I might get better.” There’s no cure for lupus!”
Response of the US Army
Even though the Twitter thread did not go exactly to plan the Army thanked everyone who responded and shared their stories and noted that they could help others in similar situations. The Army also said that they were committed to the health, safety and well-being of all military personnel. The Army tweet also provided the phone number to the Veteran's Crisis Hotline no doubt after seeing many tweets showing that the responders were in distress.
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