Memorial Day weekend is supposed to be a time to offer respect and gratitude to those who have served in the military. In honor of this year’s celebration, the US Army sent out what they had assumed would be an innocuous tweet designed to stir up some feeling of pride on the internet. The account shared a video of one young Private talking about his (largely positive) experience serving. They then followed it up, asking how others on Twitter had been impacted by their time in service – but the responses were not exactly what they had had in mind.
Many took to social media to share the less-than-positive impacts that the military has had on them and their lives. Much of what was shared was absolutely heartbreaking – and it’s left many wondering exactly what the US Army can do in response to this.
They sent out a tweet from a young Private named Nathan Spencer, who talked about his experiences serving. They followed up with a second message asking others to share their experiences, presumably hoping for some patriotic messages. But things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Many responded with their horrifying experiences serving in the military – either first or second hand. One drew attention to the fact that many were unable to speak on their experiences serving, for one very tragic reason.
Some users drew attention to the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by their loved ones who had served in active combat. This mental illness can have horrific and far-reaching impacts.
A large number of the tweets in response to this prompt cite loved ones struggling hugely with addiction following their deployment.
Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to a lack of being able to cope with many of the foundational aspects of life, meaning that many veterans are left as fringe members of society.
The rates of suicide amongst veterans is absolutely shameful – and it’s a tragedy that so many should not have to be dealing with.
Many who survive their service are left permanently altered and unable to return to life as they did before. The worst part? This trauma can last for a lifetime – reaching far further than just the time served.
One Twitter-user pointed to the Hmong veterans, who were used during the Vietnam War to help soldiers on the Ho Chi Min trail and were subsequently abandoned and left to die when war was lost.
The sheer amount of responses to this tweet is pretty horrific – but to make matters worse, it seems as though many of the people responding have more than one negative experience.
One lady shared the story of her two brothers, both of whom suffered life-long consequences after their time in service. Many lose contact with their relatives who are suffering from PTSD.
One Twitter-user shared a horrific tale of her grandfather, who was exposed to dangerous chemicals during wartime and was left with Parkinson’s disease.
Many share a similar story to this one, wherein entire families were torn apart by the untreated PTSD of a loved one who had served in a war.
One Twitter-user shared the horrible story of his childhood best friend. Knowing that he was suffering with mental health problems post-war, he did the right thing and reached out for help – only to be denied.
One sad story shared by another Twitter-user mentions the fact that her dad’s PTSD caused him to suffer from memory loss and sometimes leaves him unable to recognize his daughter.
One Twitter-user commented that, after his service, her dad became hyper-controlling and almost impossible to live with. Before his time in war he was much more of a free spirit.
While service tends to be just for a finite period of time, the results after coming home can last for a lifetime. Many report that their family members will never be the same.
In fact, it seems that those who have a tragic army-related experience to share tend to know more than one life that has been ruined by their time serving.
A lot of Twitter-users report the same kind of tragedy upon having a loved one return from service. PTSD sufferers tend to have a very hard time acclimating back to everyday life, and many lose contact with loved ones.
This short and to-the-point answer to the Army’s question was one of the first responses that truly went viral.
Many of those who join the US Army don’t do so totally out of their own volition.
In fact, the means of recruitment for a service that can be so incredibly dangerous is highly controversial.
Not only do those speaking on this issue report that time in service has had negative impacts on mental and physical health, alongside having massive personal and social implications, but, for many, it has been a fiscal issue, too.
Members of the LGBTQ community have been massively mistreated in the armed forces, with many facing discharge upon coming out.
By focusing their recruitment primarily at those who are unlikely to be able to afford an expensive college education, the Army exploits those who are unsure of their futures.
The Army does tend to focus its attention on the lower-class and poorer recruits, finding them easier to convince that service is a viable option. But many worry that the risks aren’t properly explained.
The idea that many seem willing to play with peoples’ lives for profit, or imperialist gains, seems incredibly frightening when you think about it. Many have been left with an almost nihilistic view of the world.
If the military does treat human life as expendable and as a means-to-an-end, this throws up some pretty horrendous questions about what it means to be a citizen.
Some even took this view.
The idea that the poorer people in a society are expected to risk their lives (plus their physical and mental health, relationships, and ability to function in the world) to look after the rich is hard to deal with.
Many responded to these horrific and tragic stories with apologies to those who have suffered at the hands of the US Army – but the idea of us doing any better than this seems like only a vague concept.
Coming back from war leaves some changed for life – and unable to ever get back what they lost. This means that there’s no real way that the Army can repay people for their service.
With so many responses like the ones above, it seems like this one tweet from the Army could be a turning point in how they deal with veteran aftercare – and hopefully for the better.