Michael Prysner is a veteran of the war in Iraq and an anti-war activist
On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember those who have died in Washington’s wars. Of course, we’re only asked to remember the lives of U.S. troops; the lives of civilians killed in the current wars are supposed to not exist. As veterans, we know the human toll all too well, and cannot forget the more than one million innocent Iraqis, and the tens of thousands of Afghans, including an entire home just obliterated yesterday by NATO that killed ten children--cut from life before it had even begun.
In the United States, there are many families who will be mourning a loved one this Memorial Day: over 6,000 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years. That number is climbing by the day as casualties hit record numbers in the hopeless Afghanistan war, and troops continue to be killed in the “ended” Iraq war.
But what this government doesn’t want us to remember is the record number of troops who have lost their lives to suicide. They, too, are victims of the U.S. military's wars. Over the past two years, more active-duty troops have killed themselves than have been killed in combat. Outside the military, veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day.
This epidemic is the result of criminally negligent mental health care from the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs—but no matter how much the mental health care system is improved, it doesn’t stop the constant flow of thousands of young people who are sent to be traumatized in the first place in two imperial wars. A recent study found that now 80 percent of soldiers and Marines have witnessed a friend killed or wounded in combat. Morale is down the drain.
Under these conditions, the wave of suicides can only get worse.
Active-duty troops are standing up and fighting back. This Memorial Day, let’s remember those killed by the U.S. government’s actions, and honor those who are memorializing a fellow soldier by speaking out and fighting to punish those responsible for his death.
Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, from 4-9 Infantry at Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq twice. He was rated a “low risk” for suicide after three consecutive suicide attempts, was publicly ridiculed for seeking help by his superiors, then placed in a barracks room alone in violation of Army regulations. Days later he killed himself, on March 19, 2010.
Kirkland’s mother, Mary Corkhill, told March Forward!: “the Army has massively failed him … I am very angry at the Army and I feel they killed my son.”
March Forward! members in 4-9 Infantry immediately sprung into action upon his death to expose those responsible. They have been heroically organizing and speaking out. They are still working today to expose Sgt. Kirkland's case and the criminal treatment given to all troops, and to organize against the wars.
You can help their voices be heard by signing their petition and circulating their statements widely.
Help build the campaign to win justice for Sgt. Kirkland, to hold the government accountable for their mistreatment of traumatised soldiers, and to end the wars!
For more on the Kirkland campaign:
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