Earlier today, 23 year old ex-marine Terrence Tyler killed two co-workers at a New Jersey supermarket and then turned the gun on himself. Tyler had served three years in the marines and was discharged two years ago. Family members of Tyler have said that he was unhappy in the marines and left suffering from depression. Although Tyler never served overseas, the military clearly had a deep emotional impact on him and he left the forces damaged by the experience. Tyler was said to have been reasonably content about his job and where he was living, but he was clearly unable to escape the negative impact the military had on him; Tyler committed the shootings whilst wearing desert camouflage gear. It would appear as though his time in the military was, at least in part, the cause Terrence Tyler’s actions and if that is the case then Tyler is one of countless veterans unable to escape from the trauma of military service once immersed in civilian life.
The US currently spends around $711 billion per year on its military; if Mitt Romney becomes president then this looks set to rise to over $1 trillion however very little of this spending goes to caring for American troops once they leave the military. In 2012, more active US serviceman have committed suicide than have been killed in action; according to The Guardian, “In the first 155 days of 2012 there were 154 suicides among active troops, around 50% more than the number killed in action in Afghanistan”. Around 18 veterans commit suicide a day and as time goes by and the psychological consequences of active service have time to take effect this number looks set to rise.
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to have an answer for how to deal with this problem. Although Romney is promising increased military spending, he has made no clear intention of improving psychological care for ex-servicemen. In a speech at the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston South Carolina, Romney promised to “reverse the hollowing” of the US navy, which is currently larger than the next 13 largest navies combined, by increasing ship construction “from 9 per year to 15 ships per year” but has not spoken at all about how any of the Department of Defence’s bigger budget could be diverted to supporting ex-servicemen.
At a recent speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney promised to push China and Russia around and hinted at conflict with Iran once he became President but did not once mention the 79,000 active US troops in Afghanistan, let alone how he would finance or care for the troops he hinted at sending into battle. President Obama on the other hand has spoken of dramatically reducing military spending, but has not spoken about how the servicemen and women made redundant in the cuts will be protected once out of the military.
The military is often used to distract the American public from the major issues that are threatening America domestically. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provided the perfect distraction from the 45,000 Americans dying each year from lack of health care coverage and the poorly regulated economy that was swiftly heading towards collapse. Operations in Afghanistan have been going on now for almost twice the length of the Second World War and little tangible progress seems to have been made. With 18 ex-servicemen committing suicide daily and veterans making up 1 in 4 of the homeless population of the United States it is gradually becoming clear to the American public that their servicemen are being virtually abandoned once they enter civilian life. However, after using servicemen as cannon fodder for so long, it seems that no politician knows how, or has the intention to, solve this crisis.