'We Pretend the Vets Don't Even Exist'

By Swofford, Anthony | Newsweek, May 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

'We Pretend the Vets Don't Even Exist'


Swofford, Anthony, Newsweek


Byline: Anthony Swofford

All across America veterans are committing suicide at unprecedented rates, but no one has been able to answer why. Author and former marine Anthony Swofford gets to the bottom of an epidemic.

I was sitting next to Melissa, a call responder at the VA Crisis Hotline in Canandaigua, N.Y., when she looked at me and whispered, 'He just said he thinks he should walk out into traffic on Interstate 5 and end it all, that life is not worth living.'

On the other end of the line was a young man who'd been out of the Marines for four months. He was unemployed and broke and hadn't eaten all day. He'd driven his father's truck from the middle of the country to Southern California to be near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and his buddies. But most of them were either overseas again or separated from the Marine Corps. He'd taken to drinking and occasionally smoking pot. After four years of military service and two combat tours in Iraq, he couldn't find a steady job. Now he sat at a rest area near Camp Pendleton, contemplating suicide.

Melissa had about her the endearing charm of a kindergarten teacher coupled with the steely nerves of a nose tackle and the all-American looks of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty queen.

She smiled and nodded at her computer screen as she spoke to the young Marine. Her voice radiated goodness. Her screen indicated that he'd called twice earlier in the afternoon and had had brief conversations with two other responders.

"You'll learn from reaching out and making this call. It's a brave call."

She IM'd a colleague on the crisis-hotline floor, a health technician, and told her that she thought this kid was in need of a rescue.

The tech had no idea where Interstate 5 and Camp Pendleton were. I told her Southern California, North County San Diego. I'd flown to Rochester from San Diego that morning.

"You have a long time to figure this out. You can't figure it out in four months," Melissa said to the young man.

The technician got to work initiating the rescue with a 911 center in California. I thought about calling my wife in San Diego and telling her to go find the kid.

The Crisis

About 18 veterans kill themselves each day. Thousands from the current wars have already done so. In fact, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by their own hand is now estimated to be greater than the number (6,460) who have died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eleven years of war in two operating theaters have taken a severe toll on America's military. An estimated 2.3 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and 800,000 of those service members have been deployed multiple times.

Pull up your local newspaper online and search "veteran suicide," and you're likely to come up with at least one link to a story. Based on data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, Mark Kaplan of Portland State University asserts that male veterans have a twofold increase in death by suicide over their civilian counterparts and that female veterans are three times as likely to kill themselves as their civilian counterparts. Veterans are 60 percent more likely to use a firearm in an attempted suicide than civilians, and firearms are the most effective way of taking one's own life.

So why are these young veterans killing themselves at such high rates?

In 1992 I was in danger of becoming such a statistic, just released from the Marines after four years of service and combat action in Kuwait during the Gulf War. I know the suicidal temptation that can accompany the isolation and loneliness veterans experience after the high of combat and the brotherhood of arms fade in the rearview mirror. I skulked around college campuses with a watch cap pulled tight to my ears, looking for a threat, knowing that when it appeared, I could extinguish it. I took a swing-shift warehouse job that required very little human interaction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'We Pretend the Vets Don't Even Exist'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.