… if it concurs with the experience of someone you know – or maybe you. From Shannon Meehan’s excellent piece in today’s Home Fires:
Killing enemy combatants comes with its own emotional costs. On the surface, we feel as soldiers that killing the enemy should not affect us — it is our job, after all. But it is still killing, and on a subconscious level, it changes you. You’ve killed. You’ve taken life. What I found, though, is that you feel the shock and weight of it only when you kill an enemy for the first time, when you move from zero to one. Once you’ve crossed that line, there is little difference in killing 10 or 20 or 30 more after that.
War erodes one’s regard for human life. Soldiers cause or witness so many deaths and disappearances that it becomes routine. It becomes an accepted part of existence. After a while, you can begin to lose regard for your own life as well. So many around you have already died, why should it matter if you go next? This is why so many soldiers self-destruct when they return from a deployment.
I know something about this. The deaths that I caused also killed any regard I had for my own life. I felt that I did not deserve something that I had taken from them. I fell into a downward spiral, doubting if I even deserved to be alive. The value, or regard, I once had for my own life dissipated.
I guess this is why Lt. Col. David Grossman spends so much time giving seminars to soldiers: to get them over that first hump so they can accomplish their mission. But it’s also why you see him sometimes, in those peppy seminars, in the same segments that start with soldiers’ suicides — something that Meehan also talks about.
The Pentagon is trying right now with special training to rewire people after it’s over, something they call “Battle-Mind.” Or have they moved on to a new name, a new idea? Or is it now just tossing handfuls of Zoloft, crossing their eyes and hoping for the best?