The thoughts conveyed in this article are the writer’s alone, and the following content does not reflect the official views or policies of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the United States Military Academy or the United States Government.
Is PTSD a problem? Yes. Is suicide in the Army a problem? Yes. Are soldiers war weary? Yes. But those problems aren’t THE problem here.
If we accept that the military is just a microcosm of society at large, we must also accept that there are those in uniform that have the potential to cause great harm to those around them– perhaps they are mentally unstable, perhaps they are prone to violence, perhaps they should have never been in the military to begin with, perhaps any number of things. We might never know, much less even begin to solve them.
But the idea that we can somehow simplify the needs, characteristics, individual differences of an entire segment of the population– our men and women in uniform– based on the actions of a few is a blatant disregard to our soldiers and an ignorant stereotype that only illustrates a growing divide between our military and the society it is sworn to protect.
We cannot prevent every act of senseless violence. Just as we cannot prevent every crime that happens in any part of society. We can try and we may even deter or stop some– but inevitably something bad is going to happen. If the world were a perfect place, we would all be out of jobs anyways.
As a member of the military that has worn the uniform for the better part of seven years, I can attest that the majority of soldiers I have worked with are outstanding people. They are responsible, they care deeply about each other, and receive an immense amount of trust in regard to the application, and at times restraint, of violence all over the globe. Having been deployed for months now, I am surrounded by young men and women with weapons and ammunition– and I have never once feared for my safety or lacked the confidence in them with regard to that responsibility.
But how or why when we get back to the United States– these same soldiers– despite all their training, despite all the trust we give them overseas, despite spending years of their lives carrying weapons in foreign lands– can’t be trusted with that responsibility anymore. The weapons will all be locked up. The ammo confiscated. And they will be treated like children incapable of that responsibility. It is a bit senseless.
And for what? Because soldiers are no longer in a war zone they should wave their right to defend themselves? Or because we have law enforcement for that? Clearly, our law enforcement lack the capability to be where they are needed exactly when they are needed. And who, honestly, could expect them to be?
And yet, when our legions return to Rome they are stripped of their shields and spears.
I don’t know when or where this idea started. But the victims of Ft. Hood lacked any ability to defend themselves– whatever years training and experience they may have had– was of no use in this situation. Our laws made them victims. Their blood is on our hands.
Ty Stephens is a Native of East Texas, and he is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in International Relations. After commissioning in 2011 as an Infantry Officer, he has served as both a Armored Platoon Leader and a Battalion Mortar Platoon Leader while assigned to 1st Battalion 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas. He has deployed in support of Operation Shared Accord to South Africa in 2013 and Operation Enduring Freedom- Horn of Africa in 2014. Ty has traveled to the North, Latin and South Americas, Western Europe, and South Asia. Ty enjoys the outdoors and adventure sports.