The U.S. Army last week asked soldiers and veterans on Twitter to share how serving affected their lives—and it seems like the biggest PR disaster they could’ve envisioned, as thousands told tales full of grief, death, pain, and affliction.
Service members, military veterans, and their friends and family gave over 11,000 responses to a tweet from the official U.S. Army account asking, “How has serving impacted you?”
How has serving impacted you?
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 23, 2019
The tweet was a followup to a Twitter video and thread honoring Pfc. Nathan Spencer, who described how being in the Army gave him an opportunity to “serve something greater” than himself.
However, when the army asked the public the same question, their replies were anything but positive. Many recounted experiences with physical and mental disorders including PTSD and severe anxiety, sexual assault, suicide, drug addiction, and other debilitating effects of military service.
I lose 1-3 battle buddies a year to suicide, thanks for asking. https://t.co/oaJPNz3MAH
— James Marx (@can_o_marx) May 25, 2019
My best friend joined the army seeking a greater purpose, but has only descended further into alcoholism and mental illness. He hasn’t even seen combat. There’s something very wrong with the images of heroism the army advertises to these impressionable young people.
— Melociraptors ? (@Melociraptors) May 26, 2019
As a mother, I was proud of my son as he signed up to serve his country during his last year of High School. He served 3 deployments in Iraq. That young man with his whole life in front of him is now broken mentally and emotionally beyond recognition and the Army isn’t helpful.
— aunttea (@AuntTea04) May 26, 2019
Oh, ya know, PTSD, depression, anxiety, nightmares- all from sexual harassment during my service that nobody was ever held accountable for. The master chief who could have ended it (but didn’t) is now CMC of an entire Navy Region, but I got kicked out for reporting harassment. ??♀️
— Shentel Downes (@Ixtahb) May 26, 2019
Same here. I went to report an attempted sexual assault with 2 wiynesses who got the guy off my half naked unconscious body and the base police tjreatened to charge ME W/Underage drinking and failure to obey a lawful order if I pressed charges.. On my ship it was even worse.
— Ana Resist Enlist Persist Impeach45Christopherson (@anactc) May 26, 2019
Sexual harassment every day. Experiencing sexual assault. Protecting others from sexual assault. Sleeping w/ a knife @ night & holding my body against a door as a drunk male banged on our barracks door. A fear that never leaves me. That is how serving has impacted me.
— Hannah Funderburk (@HannahFunderbu3) May 26, 2019
My wife and I served in the @USArmy. We spent over 5 years geographically separated from each other. She was sexually assaulted on deployment and kicked out of the army for seeking treatment bc she was then deemed unfit for service. I got out bc her assaulters went unpunished.
— C & B (@johnsoncale1) May 27, 2019
I lost custody of my son. I came home from Afghanistan then my service was used against me even though this was my first deployment and not knowing how to defend against someone who is dishonest in court. Smh. Sacrifice is bs. #femaleveteran #warishell #mycountryforgotme
— Anita C Roberts (@theluxuryceo) May 27, 2019
The VA hospital actually almost killed my godmother’s dad (served in Vietnam) last week. He was given 20 mg of a diabetes drug; hours after leaving the VA hospital, he collapsed. The doctor at the hospital the ambulance took him to said they would NEVER prescribe more than 5 mg.
— Emily M (@emilynm41) May 27, 2019
My brother was in an explosion, and he’s lucky to be alive. He has no cartilage in either of his knees. He has hearing loss and a traumatic brain injury. He’s losing his memory. He suffers from PTSD. He likes to break things and yells a lot. He left and never quite came back. https://t.co/WTEJkaUl3I
— Melissa Sweeney (@MlsSweeney) May 26, 2019
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is a common affliction in veterans. Around 11-20% of soldiers who served in the Iraq War or the war in Afghanistan have PTSD, reports the VA, and at least 30% of Vietnam War veterans have PTSD.
The department has also found that of the 20 million veterans in the United States, fewer than half actually receive benefits from the VA. Furthermore, suicide rates among veterans have been on the rise across the nation.
My brother went at 18, served as a sergeant in the Gulf war, came home a loner and an alcoholic, walked in front of a train one day. I got this tattoo for him. pic.twitter.com/vXVMU013TI
— #CitizenG (@TheG_ist) May 27, 2019
You protected my abuser, tried to make me look like the abuser and planted drugs on me (military bros eh?) and made me feel less safe. ?
Something he still tries to use to gaslight me. Thanks a lot! https://t.co/0hdH5IjXfm
— julie | photographer ? (@morriganthemage) May 26, 2019
You lied to my sister about paying for college and whenever I went to a mental hospital there were multiple people with PTSD (you refused to pay for their treatment as well) https://t.co/a9J1d3dRzw
— Kreal Tube (@MyKreal) May 24, 2019
I’m in debilitating pain every minute of every day. Sometimes when it rains my knees swell up and I can’t walk. Some nights I can’t sleep because the spasms in my lower back make me lie awake in agony. I’m 27.
Down with the yankee imperialists. https://t.co/PWW6kl94Bp
— Natalie Ironside (@IronsideNatalie) May 27, 2019
Got discharged for being trans and still dealing with that bullshit hbu? https://t.co/ghxeqYWDNZ
— Riley Pepper (@Ms_Riley_Guprz) May 24, 2019
Left me with one functioning eye and an anxiety disorder but hey no student loans https://t.co/bArVgZJL6T
— Drox (@JustDroxTheFox) May 26, 2019
Let’s see, i was racially harassed, bullied, hospitalized for being suicidal, i was harassed for being suicidal, a doctor threatened me, i left with severe anger issues/depression, helplessness, and i was pumped full of drugs, and the army stole my bonus from me. https://t.co/DWtdo5eXUe
— ?? Young ?️ Lee ?? (@XxYLeeXx) May 25, 2019
I was 17 years old with A 6 month old child. I go into the military for an education so I can take care of my daughter. I was raped by an officer. Was told that for my troubles I would receive an Honorable discharge if I didn’t press charges and just go away. I took the Discharge
— BlueWolff Trading (@bluewolfftrade) May 26, 2019
My dad was a combat medic and served for multiple tours. He had debilitating PTSD when he came home. (As do many vets) So many cope with their issues with alcohol & opiates, like my dad who died before my 16th birthday because of alcoholism. VA needs better mental health services https://t.co/UMmgCusfFD
— KT (@freckle_foutz) May 25, 2019
I have PTSD https://t.co/Aj7mqXgO4C
— American Propagandist (@ArmyStrang) May 23, 2019
While the raw, devastating reactions were certainly not what the Army had in mind, they followed up their initial inquiry with a message of support:
To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations. The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019
As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can’t see.
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (and press 1 to talk to someone NOW) or visit https://t.co/QWphIbzxEj
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) May 25, 2019
“Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations,” read the tweets. “As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can’t see.”
If you are a veteran in need of help, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.