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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
I do not believe you when you tell me that you support the troops. I have heard too many ignorant voices proclaim they support our troops, but not the military. But not the war. But not the government. It is as if the distinction you make between one entity and the other relieves you of the moral blame that comes with the shortcomings of the decisions our country makes. What’s worse is that in our support, we are complicit in the neglect of both active duty service members and veterans by the military and veterans affairs departments.
Our military, according to the Pew Research Center, has an approval rating of 78 percent among U.S. citizens.
We, as the beneficiaries of the sacrifice of others, have failed to acknowledge and address the systemic and rampant issues within our military and veterans affairs departments. It is our glorified and widespread support of soldiers and the system in which they exist that permits the military to concurrently act in such a neglectful way.
So what “support” are you giving when veterans are denied care because they were incorrectly dismissed instead of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder? How do you “support” your troops when commanding officers accused of sexual assault receive no jail time, but merely a slap on the wrist? What are you supporting when a soldier is twice as likely to commit suicide than a civilian, and when the number of deaths by suicide in the military is higher than the number of deaths from active duty? There is simply more to supporting your troops than acknowledging their sacrifice. And still, you may not even begin to fathom that sacrifice.
The reports are endless, and each story is just as impactful as the last. Eric Ausborn, 22, committed suicide after two tours of duty, leaving behind a wife and two children. Jerald Jensen, after two tours of duty and 16 surgeries on his jaw, was “chaptered out” with a dishonorable discharge for minor infractions and denied veterans affairs and education benefits, as well as a denial of unemployment status. Meanwhile, hundreds of anonymous authors share their stories of sexual assault while serving in the military, describing their experiences and sharing how their cries for help were met with pushback from commanding officers.
So the answer to the question of how our military responds to mental health and sexual assault issues is: poorly. The source of these issues should instead be the shining example in the treatment and dealing of them. The necessity of having a military does not absolve it or us of the responsibility of caring for the casualties of service, of which there are many. A soldier who comes home with an “unrelenting depression and a generally joyless existence” is as much a casualty of war and service as someone who doesn’t come home at all. They deserve better, and we have failed them.
These are the lives of others that we neglect. Lives and experiences we will never know, yet owe more to than the words we use to distinguish our support. The distinction we try to make is filled with empty words and claims, devoid of the humanity that is deserved. Support is, once again, more than the acknowledgement of the sacrifice others make. We must call for more reform with regards to our military and veterans affairs. Our support should be the effective care and consideration of our service members, because without that, it isn’t support at all.