The Mental Health Stigma is alive and well in the military

mh issue
This post graced my Facebook timeline today. It was made by a Staff Sergeant (E-6) in the Marine Corps. I know the guy, he’s the douchebag that got 2 people hurt so bad that one lost his arm and one with an extremely bad TBI. I digress.

The first comment is mine. The second comment is someone I’ve never met. If you think the military is doing a good job of erasing the stigma against mental health issues, you’re mistaken. It will take another 8 years before the NCOs and SNCOs (E-4 through E-7) have cycled out and are no longer in a position to treat Marines like this. Back in 2006 they still punished you if you had a mental health issue and couldn’t “fit in” like everyone else. Got demons and drink? NJP.

Clearly you aren’t responsible enough to take care of yourself, so fuck you, I’m going to take half of your pay, put you on restriction and extra duty. That will teach you to not have demons. I’m so sick of the zero-defect mentality; it is a delusion that kicking people out for these issues will make the Corps better in the short term or the long term. If you send the message that someone with a mental health issue, like PTSD, or TBI (TBIs do have an effect on the function of the brain, and can lead to depression, anger management problems, and cognitive errors) will be kicked out, those with the issues will no longer tell you because of the fear of being kicked out. This causes Marines to suffer for years, hiding their injury and living in shame that they are hurting and cannot confide in anyone. Their performance will degrade, and they may or may not spiral out of control. Ultimately their loyalty is not to the organization, it is to themselves-and why should it be to the organization when the organization would kick them to the curb because they were mentally injured doing what the organization asked them to do?

Have faith, however, because the 2nd commenter that I don’t know serves with the aforementioned douchebag, so there are people out there who will defend you if the shit goes down. Some people seek out the military because they get authority and they get paid to act like douchebags to people who cannot quit their job. The original poster is that guy.

Fallujah memories…

I was talking to last night about memories of my deployment; she recommended that I should write down some of the memories so that I can share them with my kids later.
I wanted to post this particular memory here because often times you don’t hear about things like this. Most of the time we don’t have the time or the energy to even let our minds wander.
Every now and then we occasionally see something that’s thought inspiring. One of those times was during Phantom Fury in 2004. We were occupying what passes for an apartment building, in Iraqi standards, on the north-west corner of Fallujah. I, and many other Marines slept in a very small apartment with 1 bedroom/balcony, 1 living room, and 1 bathroom (which for them is a hole in the ground/floor with a pipe to take the waste away-read this as NOT A TOILET). There were pictures of the wife, husband and two children. The pictures of the wife were at various ages throughout her life, and they appeared to be mid 30’s at the last portrait. I saw pictures of her without a veil from childhood up to the point where she was married. I saw the same pictures of the husband’s childhood, and their own kids.
I finished looking at the pictures and moved on to look at the rest of the apartment, which was filled with their possessions. I saw the adult possessions, and the toys belonging to the children. I was struck and couldn’t help but wonder: where did the family go? Did they make it to wherever they were going alive? Were they still alive? Was there even somewhere for them to go? How did they feel about leaving everything behind? What did they take with them? How did the children feel, and what did they think?
We aren’t mindless killers. We generally don’t even want to kill anybody. We want to live our lives, just like they do. Not that I want to find out, but I wonder what it was like to be them. Having a foreign military in an area you may have spent all your life in, basically ruling the place. Not running their day-to-day life, but when we showed up to an area, they were expected to part ways or suffer the consequences. The threat of IEDs was huge, and especially dangerous were the SVBIEDs, or suicidal vehicle borne improvised explosive devices. Here’s what an IED did to my truck as we passed it at 45 mph:


I literally almost died. The truck was on fire before we stopped, the truck was without power or hydraulics. The only reason we did survive is because my driver was able to fight the truck to a stop about 2 feet before we went down an embankment and into a swamp. Without hydraulics.

The text was something bRaving Bipolar added. This was literally minutes after an IED exploded on my side of the vehicle from one lane-width away. Instant migraine, hence the unsnapped chin strap.

Something else that was expected was that if we talked to you, you talked to us.

We weren’t being assholes. We just wanted to know if they knew where the insurgents were. They were in just as much danger as we were.
I love being a husband and daddy, and I am glad I gave up what I used to do. That doesn’t make me miss it any less. I loved going to Iraq and was hoping to go to Afghanistan before I got out. It takes a special person to re-enlist in the Corps, and especially the Infantry. My job wasn’t a 9-5, and it wasn’t fixing a truck. When you join the Infantry, you’re taking up a profession where the “goal” is not to finish the TPS report, it’s not to put a certain amount of information in the database, it’s not to serve food to customers and it’s not to field customer complaints; when you join the Infantry your job is to kill. Like or dislike, that is your job and you will do it.

Nothing says “I don’t like al Qaeda” like a Marine wielding 9 inches of sharpened steel and the will to use it.

6 Years ago, in the greater Fallujah area

Sometimes I wonder where this kid is, what he’s up to, and if anything I did ever made a difference to him.  We were visiting houses that day and I usually interacted with kids and younger family members while my platoon commander or section leader questioned the eldest male present.

I miss deploying and being a Grunt.  I would miss my wife and kids more, but I miss being an Infantryman and doing Infantry stuff nonetheless.