Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October 19, 2010

      When I was covering the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Army was mostly draftees. They went to the war for a year.  Occasionally you met a career soldier on a second tour, but that was unusual.
    Now we have an all volunteer Army, which means soldiers go to war (pick one; we have two--45,000 soldiers still in Iraq and, of course, Afghanistan) for longer.  Men and women serve three, four, sometimes even five tours in the war zones.  This has consequences.  High stress is one of them.
    Politics Daily, quoting an internal Army investigation, reports that more soldiers are dying by drug overdose, accident, murder and suicide than in combat.  Suicide, the report says, is now "the third-leading cause of death for soldiers...Simply stated, we are often more dangerous to ourselves than the enemy."  No one, Politics Daily says, suggests that stress is the only cause, but the Army's Vice Chief of Staff, General Peter Charelli, acknowledges that the problems are "troubling."
     This civilian sees two solutions:  one, restore the draft, which I can't imagine Congress doing;  two, end the wars.  Give peace a chance, as those Vietnam protesters used to chant.  Let's hope.

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