A US Army Pfc. says in the brief clip posted to Twitter that serving has given him the opportunity to grow as a man, protect the ones he loves and serve something greater than himself.
Then the Army asked, “How has serving impacted you?” Several thousand answered. And virtually none sounded anything like that of the private first class.
The tweet has not been deleted, but it’s likely the Army did not anticipate the responses it would receive. Or maybe it did. Few if any are positive. Quite the opposite. Thousands shared and commented on tragic stories of suicide, addiction, depression, violence, homelessness, domestic violence, job loss, incarceration and lasting and debilitating PTSD all with little to no help from the government.
“I am so sorry. The way we fail our service members hurts my heart. My grandfather served in the Korean War and had nightmares until his death at 91 years old. We must do better.”
Most of the regular US Army Twitter account tweets average a couple hundred likes or re-tweets. This tweet, so far, has nearly 20,000 people posting, commenting and sharing. The impact of these real-life stories of veterans, their families and others impacted is perhaps not the impact the US Army was looking to hear about.
But they asked.
“My brother went into the Army a fairly normal person, became a Ranger (Ft. Ord) & came out a sociopath. He spent the 1st 3 wks home in his room in the dark, only coming out at night when he thought we were asleep. He started doing crazy stuff. Haven’t seen him since 1993.”
Here’s some of the devastating, and not uncommon, stories from military and their loved ones:
‘Nobody I Know Who Served Escaped Intact’
“My uncle came back from ‘nam with severe untreated PTSD. Would have semi-regular lapses and attempt to attack his siblings. Grandma took him out a few times with a cast-iron frying pan. Lived at home until he drank himself into a box.
Nobody I know who served escaped intact. Like, really, I don’t know how y’all expected this thread to go, but I hope you’re ashamed of how you treat these people.For the service members here: I’m glad you made it back.”
“My best childhood friend lost his mind after his time in the marines and now he lives in a closet in his mons house and can barely hold a conversation with anyone. He only smokes weed and drinks cough syrup that he steals since he can’t hold a job.”
“My dad served 20+ years and has extreme ptsd and countless injuries. one of my uncles committed suicide, and i lost two of my childhood friends before the age of 21. but yay military! ?
“also let’s talk about the fact that my cousin served 8+ years and has really bad ptsd and can’t get a job.
“or we can talk about the sheer number of homeless veterans living on the streets of houston, who can’t get a job because of their injuries and ptsd. but our government sure loves our veterans. they love them so much they won’t do shit to help them once they’re discharged.”
“My grandpas brother has such bad ptsd that he constantly leaves for long times, telling no one where he’s going and doesn’t know how to process his anger without violence.”
‘I Did Not Serve, But I Have 3 Fewer Friends From High School, 1 Combat Death, 2 PTSD Suicides’
“i went to a lower-middle class high school and your recruiters took a bunch of my friends with promises of money and no combat, and now they’re gone. you never once bothered the kids at the rich high school.”
“My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”
“my grandpa served in vietnam from when he was 18-25. he’s 70 now and every night he still has nightmares where he stands up tugging at the curtains or banging on the walls screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. he refuses to talk about his time and when you mention anything about the war to him his face goes white and he has a panic attack. he cries almost every day and night and had to spend 10 years in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideations from what he saw there.”
Story after story.
His Uncle ‘Died With the Needle in His Arm,’ He Said. ‘Despite Whatever Demons Found Him Vietnam, I Loved Him’
“My uncle served in Vietnam. Before his deployment I was told he was a vibrant young man who never touched a drop of alcohol. After coming home he couldn’t put the bottle down, lost a good job with the Boston Fire Department and died with the needle still in his arm.
I know it’s not right to play favorites but he was my favorite uncle. He died when I was about 15. I’m 37 now and knowing what I know now idk if I ever saw him sober. Nevertheless, despite whatever demons found him Vietnam, I loved him.”
“Made me grow up with with a hyperparanoid and controlling father. My sister and i were hardly allowed to step out of our room. He had horrible anger issues, admitted to contemplating suicide. My family says he used to be different before enlisting. He wanted to be an artist.”
“My dad drank himself to death, thanks for asking …”
Approximately one-third of all homeless men in New York City are U.S. veterans and nationwide nearly a half-million veterans are homeless during the course of a year.
Wren Joined to Raise His Family Out of Poverty & For an Education: ‘You Guys Sent Him Back in a Box’
“My best friend joined the Army straight out of high school because his family was poor & he wanted a college education. He served his time & then some. Just as he was ready to retire he was sent to Iraq. You guys sent him back in a box. It destroyed his children.
“It ripped me apart too. Going to see him in Arlington Cemetery… I have a whole lot of anger inside of me. He should still be here. No giving Army is worth this pain. It’s a bullshit war.”
“He was LtC Thomas A Wren
killed Talill 5 Nov 2005
Here he was with 4 of his 5 children.
I miss him every day.
Every damn day.”
“Lemme think …I didn’t serve but my brother did. he never went to war but still shot himself in the head so …he was the sweetest and most tender person and the US Army ruined him. Oh wait. I have another brother who served also without fighting. he’s been fucked up in the head paranoid and violent for forty years ever since and I don’t even know where he is or if he’s still alive and the stories he told FROM STATESIDE.”
The Vietnam War May Have Ended in 1975, But Its Nightmarish & Traumatic Impact Survives
“My dad, a Vietnam veteran, can no longer function without being stoned. He is terrified of crowds, loud noises, and strangers.”
“My grandparents were used as pawns serving the US army in aiding them on the Ho Chi Minh trail. They served in The Secret War, and when the US lost the Vietnam war the Hmong were left to die in genocide. To this day Hmong veterans are not recognized by the US Army,” the tweet read.
“More than half of my people were wiped out through genocide. Only about a third of what once was the Hmong population are scattered in diaspora around the world. Many in the US who deal with PTSD through alcoholism, abuse, and addiction to opium. And the children are left to pick up the pieces and navigate a delicate past, present, and future for the years to come while inheriting intergenerational trauma.”
“Going through these replies is absolutely heartbreaking. People don’t deserve this.”
This post has been updated but the responses, tragic and heart-wrenching, and for many, “infuriating,” keep coming.