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Red Bank Memorial 10

Every week

Every week I open up the newspaper to read a tragic story about a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan conflict who has lost his or her grip on life. These horror stories are a constant since these wars began. A recent statistic suggests that up to twenty two veterans are taking their own lives daily in America. From the veteran who returned home from a television cooking contest only to take his own life- to the soldier who shot a rifle into a crowd at a new year’s party, ultimately killing innocent people and fleeing to the mountains of Washington to freeze to death. Their stories only gain attention after a tragedy occurs.

And unfortunately it seems like most of America has already forgotten about the wars that our troops are fighting in. What is even more painful is that if these veterans had talked to somebody about their post-traumatic stress disorder or their combat related issues, perhaps some of these tragedies could have been avoided. In 2012 an army Sergeant “lost control” and killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan.

No doubt this is a tragedy. But before completely attacking and condemning this man, America needs to investigate the circumstances that lead to his decline and breakdown. He already served multiple tours in Iraq and was rumored to have a brain injury. So why was he even deployed to Afghanistan in the first place? I only ask that America tries to put itself in the minds of these veterans that have made horrific mistakes before they judge them.

As a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps I can tell you that once you are in a combat situation life is never the same. A switch is turned on inside your mind that enables you to survive and disable the enemy. The enemy dies for his country and this switch keeps you alive, allowing you to continue to fight for yours. Turning off that switch is not easy. And I am begging America to try and understand what life must have been like for these men. Because before they committed their acts of insanity…they were heroes.

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