When the decorated U.S. soldier Jeffery A. Sliker admitted to killing his would be adopted 4 month old daughter Laurne Clark in Watertown, New York recently, people began to question the validity of some reports by the military and media that soldiers were no more prone to violence than any other segment of the population.
Watertown is an Army town. With a population of just under 28,000 people within the city boarders, the local economy is virtually completely dependent on the presence of Fort Drum. Since the expansion of Fort Drum in the mid 1980’s, Watertown has seen a boom in the number of large corporations and retail chains that have decided to build in the city as a result. In fact for a short amount of time Watertown was listed as one of the fastest growing cities in America. The economic impact of Fort Drum soldiers is what has kept the city alive for many years.
In 2003 the United States Census Bureau did a nationwide study (see chart) of violent crimes which was broken down into each city in the U.S. There were 86 violent crimes reported to law enforcement in Watertown in 2003.
In 2010 according the archives of Watertown Daily Times, there were 146 articles that depicted a soldier from Fort Drum committing a violent act. That is nearly doubling the incidence of violence in a span of seven years. This is a startling figure considering that the national average is nowhere near what we see in Watertown.
There is a price to be paid in the form of trading economic stability for a higher crime rate in Watertown and a higher incidence of specific crimes involving not only soldiers but their children and those who are no longer in the military, yet stay in the area as residents. Thusly, any figures gleaned from national sources that do not take into account these factors would have to be considered possibly in the lowest terms.
Soldiers stationed in a particularly harsh environment for prolonged periods of time are more apt to assimilate their battle environment into a more pronounced part of their character. What is deemed by some as a necessary skill in a war zone, has proven to be particularly taxing on our society upon their return home. Although this behavior is certainly not indicative of all, or even most returning military personnel, it is prevalent in a significant portion of them.
According to an article on the American Psychological Association website: “Overwhelming feelings of guilt and sorrow surrounding personal actions or inactions, and feelings of shame and disgust, often prevent or compromise soldiers ability to function” This would seem to fall in line with reports released by Wikileaks in which, U.S. soldiers are shown to be participating in some of the worse human rights violations in the history of warfare. Whether it is a case of following orders or they take matters into their own hands, the cost is great on both ends of the gun.
Since the first unit of soldiers rotated back to the states in the first 18 months of the Iraq Occupation euphemistically entitled Operation Desert Storm, a steady stream of U.S. service men and women have reported a host of mental illnesses after serving in the Middle East. The Veterans Administration has been completely overrun since then with thousands upon thousands of soldiers in need of extensive mental health care. There are more suicides today from the Iraq war than from any other war we have ever been involved in. Of the more than 30,000 suicides in this country each year, 20 percent of them are acts by veterans. On average 18 veterans commit suicide each day according to statistics released by Veterans Affairs (VA) Jan. 13th 2010.
Authors Note: With 63% of the national budget going to the military it should be a high priority for the United States to investigate and rectify these issues. Re-acclimation into society should be a top priority for the Department of Defense.