All the talk in the media lately about Soldiers and PTSD got me thinking about why the media is so quick to jump in and find any link to deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan as an excuse for criminal behavior. Alex Horton wrote this fantastic piece on what the media got wrong in the Mt Rainier shooting and if you haven’t read it, please, take a few minutes and read it. I blogged the other day about all Soldiers not having served honorably and as a company commander and 16 year veteran of the US Army who is still serving, I stand by my statement.
Everyone who wears the uniform is not a hero and is certainly not worthy to be placed in the same category with genuine heros who have given their all in the name of God, Country and the brother or sister next to them.
What I think our society is dealing with is the Soldier as a Hero and when Soldiers or former Soldiers do bad things, we are stuck grappling with how can someone who we admire do such a horrible thing? How can the husband we love come home and beat the wife who waited for him? How can the son we love come home and murder in cold blood? How can we love the mother who comes back from deployment and drinks too much and screams at her kids?
Instead of looking at the realistic ways that deploying to combat, that leaving your family for a year or more, and the way that readjusting to being in a society that complains more about the price of gas and who Kim Kardwhateverhernameis is sleeping with this week affects Soldiers coming home, we are quick to say oh, they deployed to combat. They must have seen terrible things and therefore are scarred by it. That is the reason my loved one has done these terrible things. It’s not their fault, they are a victim of the war.
Here’s the rub that we are ignoring: all Soldiers are not Heros. What I mean by that is that all Soldiers, all people who wear the uniform are not good people. Simply deploying to combat does not turn a good man into a monster.
I wrote about something similar when the video of the Blackhawk pilots killing civilians was leaked on the internet. The internet went wild, calling for their arrest, for them to be charged with murder, et cetera et cetera. Collectively, we as a society struggled with the outcome of their actions: innocent bystanders killed. Our Heros simply did not do these sorts of things, ergo we had to blame them for their actions, which were completely justified based on the information they had.
So when our Soldiers return from war and they engage in actions that are contrary to what we as a society believe our Heros should be, we MUST find a way to reconcile the Soldier as Hero with the Soldier as Monster we witness. We must find a way to look at the Shadow of the Hero, the Monster who wears our uniform, and explain it.
I’m not a shrink or a doctor or anything but I think the inability to reconcile Soldier as Monster instead of Hero why we rush so quickly to find PTSD, combat deployment or some other trauma as the reason behind the actions.
It could simply be that the person committing them is not a good person. Everyone who serves is not honorable. Everyone who serves is not just. The sooner we collectively look past the uniform and see the individual, without excuses, without draping them in the flag and calling them a victim, we will better be able to honor the men and women who do serve honorably.
And the sooner we start calling criminals criminals and STOP blaming PTSD for everything that does not jive with our vision of Soldier as Hero, the sooner we’ll start reducing the stigma associated with needing a little help when our men and women do come back from war and start getting real Heros the recognition and help they deserve.