Advanced Essay #3: [They are Human To]

Introduction: For my paper this quarter I wanted to write about something that I have always been passionate about and while reading this unit I became even more interested: How those in the military are treated and how that affected their mental health. I had the opportunity to talk to a marine currently on duty and the insight provided was very heart-breaking.

They are Human To

During the summer of 2002, the army base at Fort Bragg's was under fire. Four soldiers had killed their wives and two of them had ended their own lives. Everyone was in a frenzy to point fingers and find the culprit behind all four murders; what had caused these soldiers to kill their wives in cold blood? What has caused them to snap? There have been many experiments done on soldiers, marines, and those that serve in the military to see the effects that boot camp and just being in the military in general has on them mentally. Most times they come to the conclusion that nothing really changes other than their anxiety levels, however, how do we explain four murders from four soldiers who had experienced war first hand, who had been to Afghanistan, who had gone to boot camp? Now the question at hand is, how does the military, and more specifically, boot camp, affect those mentally?

When recruits enlist into any of the following five branches: army, navy, coast guard, air force or marine corps, they are forced to attend boot camp for eight weeks. During these eight weeks they are put through rigorous training, meant to break them down and dehumanize them. In an article written by the University of Washington, the author quotes Joshua J. Jackson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences. He conducted a study on the behavior of soldiers and found that for soldiers, “from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night, someone is actively working to break down anything that’s individual about you and to build up something else in its place” (Gerry Everding  February 9, 2012). Imagine someone actively working to break your very essence, what makes you human and replace it with something else, a killing machine. This would be more than enough to cause someone to snap, making them perhaps kill their wife.

Now, when wondering what goes on inside actual boot camp a research article written by Sage Journals, breaks down what happened and what they found inside a boot camp, recounting stories of, “cadence calls ranging from sexist to sexually aggressive to misogynistic were heard shouted by troops in formations. The rationale for training soldiers in this manner is the belief that young male soldiers will be trained to desire combat instead of fear it. When used in an environment that tolerates sexism, the tactic can also teach soldiers to link sexual aggression and violence with the denigration of women.” (April 1, 2003).  In boot camp like these, they are training their men to crave the violence, exploiting their masculinity and forcing them to associate aggression and this desire for violence to the abuse and degradation of women. The first few weeks they’re given a taste of the cruelest and hardest part of the military experience and it only gets worse from there.

In camps where it is only men, often times their masculinity trait is exploited to the maximum. They are being trained to become something else, to obey when given a command. I had the opportunity to talk to an active member of the marine corps to get more of a first-person insight into the realities of boot camp. This marine shared with me things that he witnessed and lived through when he was in boot camp and even now on base. When we were talking about bootcamp and his experience during his first eight weeks he described them “ mentally and physically exhausting ,” he told me about things that had endured throughout the entire process “ the first three days they didn’t allow us to sleep. Once we hit the third day some of us started hallucinating. I fell asleep walking once.” He talked about activities that they would be forced to do, “The officers would force us to fight each other, I watched multiple people get their heads slammed on the floor.” When hearing these things my mind immediately went to how prisoners are treated. Like a prisoner, the effects of what they experience and live through is often reflected after they leave the military. In a article written by the University of Washington, the author quotes Joshua J. Jackson, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences, on the effects that life after militarism has on them, saying, “men who have experienced military service tend to score lower than civilian counterparts on measures of agreeableness.” This saying that after they leave the military and return to being a regular civilian their character is not the same. They can have a hard time making connections people or maintaining relationships and even obtaining jobs or positions within. This can lead to higher anxiety levels and mild levels of depression setting in. This is a sad fact, for many veterans this is the route that their life took and have not been able to make better.

A human is not conditioned to live under these situations and certainly can not function properly if they are malnourished and tired; they are weak. They are stripping their soldier, marines, sailors, and airmen of their identity, what makes them human, through actual physical torture and then they are just leaving the shell behind, a simple body. Then, after they are done with them they throw them back into society and expect them to go right back to their normal life after all the trauma they have endured. We need to realize that they are humans, they are not robots, they have emotions, we need to help them and allow their minds to heal. Disorders like PTSD have been linked to soldiers who had been to combat. They are sick and have to be treated as such.