Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fort Hood and PTSD

I've been thinking about the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood, and completely devastated by the killings, and that the shooter was an Arab. Other Arabs will pay for this man's madness and pain.

The quieter deaths of the suicides of 75 Fort Hood soldiers, however, has not garnered the same attention. Such lonely acts of despair need to be accounted for as well as these chilling murderous turnings-outward.
Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2009

Washington - Fort Hood, the base stricken in Thursday's shooting rampage, is the largest U.S. military facility in the world - and a base that has a large share of the military's overall instances of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

Army officials say that roughly 30,000 troops are stationed at the sprawling facility north of the Texas capital of Austin, while an additional 20,000 troops from the base are deployed to Iraq. Tens of thousands of military spouses and children live on the base and in adjacent suburbs.

The facility, which opened in 1942, houses the 1st Cavalry Division and the First Army Division West, as well as smaller aviation, logistics and military police units. It until recently also housed the Army's Fourth Infantry Division. The 1st Cavalry Division and the Fourth Infantry Division have each done three tours to Iraq.

Since the start of the Afghan war in 2001, the base has lost hundreds of soldiers in combat. More alarmingly to many senior commanders there, the base has also lost at least 75 of its soldiers to suicide, one of the heaviest such tolls in the U.S. military.

The base's former commander, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, used his tenure at the helm of the sprawling post to mount a broad campaign to reduce the incidence of PTSD and suicide among the soldiers on the post.
Despite the efforts, however, Fort Hood continues to be hit hard by suicide, PTSD and other related problems. Through October, 10 Fort Hood soldiers had taken their lives in 2009, the second-highest tally in the Army behind Kentucky's Fort Campbell, which had 16 suicides.


Lyle Daggett said...

Of the many statistics and the huge masses of information that came to light during and after the war in Vietnam, a couple have especially stuck with me:

That the number of U.S. Vietnam war veterans who have committed suicide is larger than the number of U.S. military people who were killed in the war itself.

And, that during the Vietnam war, an estimated 1600 U.S. military officers were intentionally killed by troops under their command.

The reasons for both of the above are surely many and varied, though would ultimately have their root in what inevitably happens to people (to many people, at least) who are put in horrific situations and forced to do horrific things that run contrary to their essential humanity.

Mere raw numbers obviously don't tell the full story of such things. Each of the deaths, whether by suicide or the terrible events at Fort Hood this past week, is a human story of vast proportions, which sheds stark light on critical truths about the society and culture we live in.

At the outset of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many political and military and corporate "leaders" blithely dismissed the warnings of those of us who were opposed to the wars, and dismissed any possible comparisons with the war in Vietnam. Those who failed to see the similarities were not looking ahead (or looking back) far enough or clearly enough. Those who rushed headlong into the wars -- whatever their varied reasons may have been -- chose to ignore history, and the truth of history is coming back with a horror and a vengeance.

Philip Metres said...


I couldn't agree more; combat not only kills others, it wreaks a terrible impact on the warrior. Especially in wars that don't seem to make sense, PSTD and suicide are great risks. It's too soon to know "the whole story" of the Ft. Hood slayings, but it has an all-too-familiar ring.