The Army sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan men, women and children on Sunday was reportedly on his fourth combat tour and had suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle rolled over in 2010. He served three deployments in Iraq and was currently on his fourth tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan.
There is no way of knowing if the sergeant's brain injury and multiple deployments are related to the brutal crime he allegedly committed. But the incident highlights the enormous strain the country's beleaguered all-volunteer military force is under. The longest war in U.S. history has meant extensive and frequent deployments with troops now reporting mental illness at record rates.
The Army's own research has shown that a higher rate of soldiers are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after their second deployment, and that multiple deployments put soldiers at risk for a slew of mental problems. An Institute of Medicine study found that 27 percent of "those who deployed 3-4 times received diagnoses of depression, anxiety or acute stress compared to 12% of those deployed just once." As of the end of last year, the Army had more than 125,000 soldiers who have been deployed three to four times. The Army recently moved to shorten deployments from 12 to nine months and to lengthen rest periods between them.
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The longest period of combat wars in American history, including both Iraq and Afghanistan, is taking a terrible toll on American servicemen, physically and mentally. Because of the all volunteer military many servicemen have been through multiple combat deployments, a de facto "backdoor draft", as it were. PTSD is a very serious mental illness that will affect American families and sociey for many decades to come. PTSD is a prime cause for many war atrocities, including the recent atrocity in Afghanistan by an American soldier.
In my opinion, Iraq and Aghanistan are just like Vietnam, wars with no victory, just wasted lives and money, except for the businesses that make the weapons of war. War is Hell and War Is Big Business. The imperialistic neo-conservative politicians and "war hawks" who love sending other people's family members to war should be held accountable by voting them out of office but unfortunately Americans have been brainwashed into believing these wars are necessary for "national defense". Getting the hell out of Afghanistan, reinstituting the military draft and never again having a war without Congressional approval or declaration will end or greatly deminish the possiblities of future futile wars, as I see it.