Tuesday, April 7, 2009

War Casualties At Home

I know several young men who entered or who are entering the armed services of the United States. Not out of patriotic fervor. But because they are desperate to find a job in this economy.

They figure that when they get out they'll also have VA health benefits (hopefully access to those services will have improved by then) and that the economy will have improved by the time they are discharged.

Because there are two wars ongoing, I worry about where they may be deployed. But I also know that if they are sent to Afghanistan or Iraq, if they safely return, they still will be casualties of war. For this is what happens when one returns from battle.

One of the young fellows is a Marine, and he got "extra-credit" and an upgrade just for recruiting more youngsters at the local high school while on leave. An easy sell, he said. The kids are looking for jobs and the Marines are hiring.

He was so successful at it that I thought, maybe they'll assign him to be a recruiter. If he's stateside, I thought, he'll be sheltered from the physical and psychological traumas of the wars.

But apparently that's not a fair assessment.

Time Magazine reports that the suicide rate among Army recruiters is triple the overall rate in that branch of the service. Triple.

To illustrate how serious the situation is, the magazine looks at the case of two Army recruiters working in the same office in Nacogdoches, Texas who committed suicide within weeks of one another. One of them had been berated for not getting more young people to sign up. The wife of the second man said the first recruiter's suicide "triggered" something in her husband.

One of the problems is that the recruiters are, the story says, under extreme pressure to sign up new inductees. Also, and I was unaware of this before I read the piece, the bulk of the recruiters served in Iraq or Afghanistan. So, not only are they living with the memories of the horrors of war, their jobs are to try to send more people into the battlefield.

Perhaps, for some, that's more than they can bear.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/2799103829/

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