Every so often a PR move on social media goes so badly that it almost feels like fate. Such is the case with a tweet earlier today by the U.S. Army, which asked what the account seemed to think was an innocent question about how serving in the Army impacted veterans lives.
In response, hundreds of former service members, as well as their friends and family, shared horror stories of PTSD, suicide, physical disabilities, sexual assaults, and other outcomes that resulted from their time in the Army.
The U.S. Army account quickly followed up with an acknowledgement of the torrent of suffering their question unleashed and a link to a veteran crisis line.
Veterans say that the question unearthed a dialogue about common problems that often go unspoken.
“The public just doesn’t hear about it,” Brandon Neely, a former Army specialist who posted in the thread told the New York Times. “They don’t hear about the guys, these veterans, that don’t sleep, have night sweats, are irritated. Some guys get really bad anxiety, depression.”
“I don’t like to go out to places,” Neely told the Times. “I don’t like to be around a lot of people. When my kids have stuff at school, I’m usually sitting in the back. I don’t want people behind me.”
“I know more people that have committed suicide in my unit than have been killed when we were deployed,” Neely added. “The Army is a good place, the military is a great place. The training, it gets you ready for war, but they don’t get you ready for coming home.”
Others talked about how serving had impacted their friends and family members. Briley Kazy told the Times that she was working at a restaurant in Tennessee on the 4th of July with a friend who had PTSD from combat. The fireworks triggered panic attacks.
“He was trying his hardest,” Kazy told the Times. “He would have to leave and sit in the cooler for a while and have a panic attack.”
Many of those who posted in the thread complained about insufficient mental and physical healthcare provided by Veteran’s Affairs.
“Hopefully, these politicians can do something to fix the system that’s broken,” Neely told the Times.