Murderous Vets: Casting Aspersions

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Army Photo by Sam Shore

A change of command ceremony for the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky.

NEWS FLASH: The new threat to American security seem to be the very people we laud for providing our security: the veterans who fought America’s wars.

Two recent reports by reputable journalism outlets (CNN and the Christian Science Monitor ) have re-positioned the “psycho-veteran back from the war” scare front and center.

The events that sparked these articles — the brutal slayings of a park ranger in Washington state and a grisly multiple murder in Los Angeles –have, according to the Monitor, “prompted new discussion of the potential role of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Really? Among whom?

It seems to me that these murders have spawned a new round of “if it bleeds it leads” journalism rather than a discussion. Both articles feature a number of reasoned comments by professionals in mental-health care and policy. And both articles seem to roundly ignore the reasoned advice of the experts that two incidents are not a trend.

In their favor, both articles spend significant time detailing the real trend of large numbers of returning combat veterans needing and seeking help from DoD and the VA. Both articles also highlight the grim fact of 18 veterans’ suicides per day. This is helpful.

What’s not helpful is the note that we should expect “more and more of this,” made by one of CNN’s experts being echoed in the headline. What we should expect more of is combat veterans returning to overfilled and under-resourced health care facilities. CNN and the Monitor might focus their light on these issues to greater effect.

Violence is a part of war. Everyone who participates is changed by it. All of us who have survived the war carry with us memories and, to some degree or another, pain, trauma and anger. Over 2.3 million American men and women have gone to and returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. The actions of two terribly troubled young men should not generate this type of speculative reporting casting aspersions on the other 2.3 million of us.

Our Battleland colleague Cam Ritchie is quoted in the CNN article. “ ‘What we don’t want to do is stigmatize veterans by saying they’re walking time bombs,’ said Elspeth Ritchie, chief clinical officer for the Washington, D.C., Department of Mental Health and a former U.S. Army colonel. ‘They’re not.’ “

Why isn’t that CNN’s lede? It doesn’t bleed.