Charges of improper diagnosis related to PTSD at Madigan Army Medical Center, at Joint Base Lewis-McCord have been in the headlines. The alleged shooter in the Afghan massacre was from the Washington state post, as was the infamous “kill team.” There are numerous ongoing investigations, so I will not opine on the situation at Fort Lewis.
But Fort Lewis, unfortunately, is not alone.
I want to remind readers that other bases in the news, over this long war, have included Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Hood, Texas.
Remember the murder-suicides at Fort Bragg in 2002 and the questions about Larium (mefloquine), the anti-malarial medication? There was the persistently high suicide rate at Fort Campbell, and, not in the news, a similarly high one at Fort Stewart. There were the 14 homicides at Fort Carson. And the mass shooting at Fort Hood by an Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, in November 2009.
(PHOTOS: The Afghan Massacre)
The Army is not the only service that has been troubled by suicides. Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base, has had clusters of them.
What do all these posts have in common?
They all have a very high operational tempo, with Soldiers and other service members shipping out to combat and then coming back home to recover. There are 40,000 Soldiers and other service members at Joint Base Lewis-McCord. The other bases are also very large.
So is the problem the leadership at these bases? I doubt it. My experience has been that the generals in charge of these forts care a lot about their service members. They have also been in combat, seen their troops killed, and are doing everything they can.
Instead, I think it is the ten years of war, the high combat and operational tempo, eating lousy sand-filled food, sleeping while freezing or boiling hot, seeing your friends maimed and killed, and coming home to an America that does not understand you, that contribute to despair and violence.
What can America do?
Take care of their veterans, offer them jobs, recognition and thanks, as well as a nurturing welcome back home.