On Memorial Day, we remember the ultimate sacrifice by members of our armed forces to preserve the freedoms and liberties of our country.
And remembering their sacrifice carries with it a responsibility to understand its long-reaching impacts and not to candy-coat the truth in the name of patriotism.
*Content warning: mentions of violence, death, trauma, suicide and sexual assault*
The U. S. Army posted to Twitter asking veterans what impact their time in the military had on their lives.
"How has serving impacted you?"
The intention was likely good, meaning to honor those who served, but a bulk of the responses were probably not what the Army had in mind.
How has serving impacted you?— U.S. Army (@U.S. Army)1558654455.0
Many responses talked about the toll on the mental and physical health of those who serve, even when they do make it back home.
The trauma and sacrifice wasn't always related to combat.
@USArmy Sexual harassment every day. Experiencing sexual assault. Protecting others from sexual assault. Sleeping w… https://t.co/huzB9RZVWE— Hannah Funderburk (@Hannah Funderburk)1558901584.0
@USArmy Just lost my cousin to stage 4 cancer from drinking “dirty” water at Camp Lejeune. Served his country witho… https://t.co/5i5PRPHcui— Mr. Salty (@Mr. Salty)1558887937.0
@USArmy I was the guy that typed those, Dear Mr and Mrs soandso, we regret to inform you... letters. Every day all… https://t.co/sbLOiip9fP— Tom (@Tom)1558885618.0
@USArmy My wife and I served in the @USArmy. We spent over 5 years geographically separated from each other. She wa… https://t.co/eJkLKSc0uV— C & B (@C & B)1558925081.0
Agent Orange has had a horrible impact on many lives too.
@USArmy The agent orange my grandfather was exposed to in Vietnam caused his cancer & death, and possibly caused th… https://t.co/HBBUYftlHH— garbage boy stink man (@garbage boy stink man)1558882173.0
@USArmy My bother served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive...today he struggles with two Agen… https://t.co/i4GDebSgxO— Oksana Yonan (@Oksana Yonan)1558918832.0
@USArmy Never met my grandfather thanks to a long battle with melanoma from Agent Orange in Vietnam but thanks for asking— gillian (@gillian)1558931315.0
Many who made it home still couldn't reconcile civilian life with their time in service, and their loved ones lost them anyway.
@USArmy My high school friend Ron Keeling committed suicide in 2009 after his second tour in Iraq. I didn’t keep in… https://t.co/HYaSCUXB5P— Michael Alexander (@Michael Alexander)1558907111.0
@USArmy My brother went at 18, served as a sergeant in the Gulf war, came home a loner and an alcoholic, walked in… https://t.co/f09JkmgxPv— #CitizenG (@#CitizenG)1558918315.0
@USArmy You know who I'm thinking about this memorial day weekend? The guys in my husband's unit who never made it… https://t.co/T5RlXY6KzL— BBfan4life (@BBfan4life)1558892584.0
@USArmy Two friends commuitted suicide, another has a broken back, another is deaf in one ear, harrased by my 1st… https://t.co/RPN9EJyUBC— 🏳️🌈 Adelaide Knight 🏳️🌈 (@🏳️🌈 Adelaide Knight 🏳️🌈)1558917501.0
Many people who read through the thread were horrified by what they read.
Several were thankful for the people speaking out, as the suffering experiences by those who serve is often only talked about in hushed voices in private spaces.
@USArmy I’m glad this is getting as much flak as it is. The army is a predatory service and it is FINALLY being cal… https://t.co/u3FGkwItll— Ethan Mac (@Ethan Mac)1558926882.0
@USArmy This should be a book. Every 1 should read these. Advertise THIS.— lornaw2 (@lornaw2)1558934397.0
@USArmy I couldnt read more than 10 stories. Really disheartening. Try to be strong everyone, and for those that ca… https://t.co/A0vniw3Fkt— Plant Based D🥥🍅🥕🥑(Sandor Clegane) (@Plant Based D🥥🍅🥕🥑(Sandor Clegane))1558885140.0
@USArmy Seeing all these responses is sad. Trying to remember all those who didn’t come home this Memorial Day wee… https://t.co/eLW2URN9au— Nate Gutschow (@Nate Gutschow)1558921378.0
The Army acknowledged the torrent of negative responses to their tweet, and urged anyone currently in crisis to reach out.
To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and… https://t.co/qB63x2gf22— U.S. Army (@U.S. Army)1558816876.0
As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of… https://t.co/nsDnTzXCTf— U.S. Army (@U.S. Army)1558816876.0
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1… https://t.co/BHzHkXt7KK— U.S. Army (@U.S. Army)1558816876.0
Several people pointed out that a phone number is not enough, and doesn't absolve the armed forces of responsibility to care for those who served.
@USArmy Help me understand why it is 100% incumbent upon the service member to initiate this contact. You have our… https://t.co/hBIyphcQwf— Ruck My Life (@Ruck My Life)1558902210.0
@USArmy Wow why am I not surprised. No accountability or responsibility yet they are preached 24/7 by the @USArmy a… https://t.co/xkX3V0GtpO— FixtheWorldfast (@FixtheWorldfast)1558911666.0
As well as their duty to defend and honor the service of their LGBTQ servicemembers, regardless of the religious beliefs of any members of the executive branch.
Well, I gave y’all six years and someone who exploited five draft deferments was allowed to dishonor my service and… https://t.co/4rOJ6KepSl— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈)1558825662.0
7 for me and I feel the same. https://t.co/ghT9iEemao— Dan Goodman (@Dan Goodman)1558836833.0
While the current system is wholly insufficient, crisis lines like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline listed in the U. S. Army's tweet are there to help anyone in crisis.
If a phone call isn't going to be helpful, the Lifeline also has an online chat option at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.