Don’t kid yourself, when someone thinks “veteran suicide” in 2016—the focus is dead center on the GWOT. Keep that in mind as you read on, because when someone cries “the 22 refers to veterans in general” — bullfuckingshit. While it could, and should, the rally cry was created for post 9/11 veterans and is most heavily proliferated by that same demographic.
Yeah, 22—the number that has become practically inseparable from veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—it is false.
22 GWOT veterans haven’t been killing themselves each day. You can shut up about the number now. We all can.
We’ve done it too. Both the issue and the slogan have been in OAF articles and posts. But in lieu of evidence, confirming some long-held suspicions. . .it’s time for a (much needed) cultural adjust-fire.
In a recent, concise and illuminating article we learn the 22 a day figure originated from a report that is now over three years old. Not all potential sources even contributed to the data. Moreover, veteran suicides from several years prior to the Afghanistan invasion were included. In short, the numbers are old, limited, and not representative of the veteran generation now directly associated with it (and being unrightfully stigmatized by it). Perhaps the most somber (arguably, hidden) detail is it was our beloved Vietnam vets who owned the bulk of those grim statistics during the time frame covered in the report.
According to the report, the number of GWOT veterans killing themselves averaged one a day. One. With those widely different numbers staring you in the face, it seems a runaway train of sorts occurred with limited information, and then exploded on social media and mainstream news outlets.
However, even one a day is one family devastated, one set of friends ripped apart, working toward prevention is still paramount. No argument there.
We all have (at least) one. Mine is a Marine I contracted with in Kabul. A gun to his head was the sad end to years of surviving the threat of death by the hands of others. He once told me of a gunfight somewhere along Route Irish where a man, half on fire, emerged from a decimated car to do battle with him and his team. Him and that man are both gone. It’s hard sometimes to make sense of the furious energy that took place between them, if it means anything at all now.
Thinking of him, it makes total sense to raise awareness, any way possible, to bring veteran suicide to its screeching halt. Veteran suicide is a problem, whether 19 or 90, and current comprehensive efforts should be backed fully. But, if veteran wellbeing is truly centerpiece to all the memes and ruck marches, then there are some legitimate concerns that have emerged due to the “22 a day” movement.