Author Amy Viets
One morning this week I woke to the news that a soldier in Afghanistan had killed several Afghanis including women and children. Later, as the story developed it was disclosed that this 38 year old father was on his fourth tour, and had sustained three injuries. And people had to ask why this atrocity happened?
We all know to some extent or another that war leaves scars. Some are lucky enough to leave with very little marking them as someone who has seen what many are blessed enough not to see. But a great number are not so lucky. During their “tour” they might have sustained head injuries or have seen unbelievable carnage done to those who were once mothers and children and friends. They return to restless sleeps full of nightmares, to sitting with backs to the wall so that they won’t be “attacked”, to sudden outbursts of anger misdirected to those they love, and to uncontrollable bouts of crying and bottomless pits of darkness and depression. And we ask why.
Depression affects many people but it affects soldiers and their families in unique ways. They cannot run away from that which caused or triggered the depression. They cannot hide. They cannot say it didn’t happen. This doesn’t make any of them – the depressed person or those who love him or her – any less loyal or strong. It makes them all vulnerable to depression and the effects that depression can bring.
Let’s stop asking the silly question of “why” and ask instead “how can we prevent this from happening.” Perhaps the “tours” should end? Perhaps there should be rules against the number of “tours”? Perhaps we put into place a better mental health assessment and treatment program? Whatever the question, let it be anything but “why”.