Category: Death and the Military: War, Killing, and Funeral Practices

World War II: Deceased Identification and Funeral

Before holding the funerals for the deceased in World War II, one of the necessary tasks to do is to identify the bodies and relate their family.

During the World War II, Graves Registration Service (GRS) teams were deployed to take charge of bodies retrieved from the battlefield and the remains of service personnel who died in field hospitals of combat- or non-combat-related causes.They identified a soldier by looking at their M1940 identification tags, the so-called “dog tags”. Mostly, the M1940 identification tags provided sufficient information. However, when the tags were missing, the deceased soldier’s pockets were searched for other evidence, such as a letter from home or a photo of a wife or girlfriend. In some cases, a note written by the dead soldier’s superior or comrades before the body was evacuated provided the needed information. Also, a distinguishing feature, such as a birthmark or tattoo, or even laundry marks on clothing and serial numbers on watches, helped in the identification process. [1]

13 Jun 1944, France — American Dead After D-Day Landings — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

After the identification of the victim, the War Department was notified by the field command and a telegram was dispatched to the deceased’s next of kin that began, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son [husband, father, etc.] has been reported killed in action….” This was usually followed by a personal letter of condolence from the deceased’s unit commander. [1]

The cultural and ethics aspects of funerals for many different cultures were immensely impacted and even inhibited by the many devastating events that took place throughout the course of World War II. The Holocaust and atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were three events that this effect could be seen, especially through their cultural aspects as the Japanese and Jewish communities both had very traditional funeral practices that were not able to be followed as they should have been because of these great tragedies.

The Jewish community was especially affected during this time of history, as most of their population was wiped out by Hitler and the Nazi regime.From Nazi Germany all the way to the Pacific Theatre in Japan the ability to properly carry out funerals was met with challenges. In Nazi Germany there was a man by the name of Frank Blaichman who would work in connection with the Judenrat, which were councils made up of Jewish people carrying out the orders of the Nazis, and Blaichman would receive word from them as to when the Nazis would be coming into town to take the Jewish population there to the concentration camps. Blaichman would go against this intel and remove people from the city and formed a small militia to defend any Jewish people from having to experience the horrible things that were to go on in the camps. [2]

The loss of proper ethical treatment for the deaths of the Jews came once they reached the camps. They were denied the proper funeral rites that their religion practices. Traditional Jewish funeral practices entail many different ideals that should be carried out, such as a cleansing of the deceased body, readings from the Torah, mostly consisting of psalms from the Book of Psalms, and a proper casket, which is to be simple and have little to no decorations such as flowers. Another tradition of the Jewish funeral is that the immediate family members are to be the first to place the dirt back onto the casket once it is in the ground. [3] These practices are just a few of the traditions that the Jewish people hold in high regards as it is their belief that these customs help not only those who have passed away but also those who are mourning the loss. During the Holocaust, however, the practices were not able to be properly executed as family members either died in camps together or in separate camps or were unable to find the bodies of their loved ones if they were fortunate enough to have survived. There were many ways in which the Jewish people were killed in concentration camps, the most well-known being cremated in the showering rooms, and all of these ways were not conducive to the proper funerals of the Jewish religion. The cremating of the bodies is of particular concern to the Jewish religion as they believe that the body of the deceased should not be tampered with in any way as it would interfere with the decomposition of the body. [3] The Nazis also made mass graves, throwing hundreds upon thousands of bodies into a singular hole, which again goes directly against the tradition of a singular body in a singular, simple casket. [3] All of these violations of the Jewish faith, in terms of funeral preparation and execution, shook the culture of the Jewish community throughout the world as millions were unable to properly honor their family members. The question of whether or not mass graves existed in the camps was relevant for a small period of time after their discovery, but the Treblinka camp in Poland was discovered and put any question of their existence to rest.[4] Upon the excavation of this camp there was a long line of mass graves discovered with remains that were heavily mangled to further add to the horrific acts that were undertaken at this camp. The Nazis worked to also destroy as much of the camp as they could before they left which was made clear by the massive amounts of rubble left lying around the camp. This was eventually found to be true for many of the other camps throughout Nazi Germany as well. Upon the discovery of these graves it was nearly impossible to identify many of the bodies, stories were rampant from survivors in which they recalled seeing someone turn to go another way and never seeing them again only to assume they died. This disconnect ruined any ability to proceed in proper burials for those whose lives were lost in these camps.

On the other end of the war in the Pacific Theatre, the dropping of the atom bomb would serve to negate the ability for many proper funerals. The most immediate sign of this is from the sheer destructive power that was unleashed from the dropping of the bomb. A famous piece of the horrific day in Hiroshima comes from the shadow left behind from a man sitting on the footsteps to a bank when the bomb was dropped. No remains were there upon impact, simply the shadow from the blast with no identification possible from whoever was sitting there. These stairs have since been preserved as a sign of how terrible and powerful the bombs were. [5] This famous piece of history is an immediate sign to how difficult it was to identify the dead and give them a proper burial by the standards of the Japanese. Stories from survivors verify this very well, as they discuss how people they were separated from were never found and how people they could find were far too gone to give a real funeral too. Yoshiro Yamawaki Retold the tale of his father’s horrific death and their inability to give him a proper funeral best. After the bombing, Yamawaki would venture out with his siblings to find his father’s remains, after putting him up onto a piece of wood to attempt cremating him they would fail and have to leave his body mangled and destroyed where it lay. [6] He would go on to say that the worst feeling was realizing he would never be able to give his father a proper funeral that he felt he deserved.

The Japanese culture surrounding funerals is slightly more complex than that of the Jewish community as Japan is a country filled with people of many different religious beliefs. However, the Japanese still had a “funeral ritual” that would compromise of many different things that honored the deceased and the family members who were mourning. Like the Jewish people, the Japanese, specifically Japanese Buddhists, prefer to cleanse the body of the deceased, wrap the body in an anointed garment, and they would finish the funeral ritual with a procession of those who attended the funeral to follow the casket to the burial site. Unlike the Jewish funeral, however, this casket would be decorated and they would bring flowers and many other gifts to offer to the body. [7] Now, because of the atomic bombings that took place in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, many bodies were completely vaporized by the blast, as one Japanese man recalls walking through the remains of the city seeing bodies that were completely charred over and could not be distinguished. [8] Many families were in these cities together when the bombs dropped, meaning that family members who lived in different areas would not know if any members survived or what their whereabouts were. With the inability to conduct proper funeral rituals for the deceased, many were left mourning without having a proper farewell to their loved ones. These were terrible events that happened to both the Jewish and Japanese cultures, but they also provided changes to the cultures that promote both unity with others and provide clarity with death.

The ethical inadequacies of funerals during world war II were primarily rooted in the catastrophic events that took place. Unable to identify the dead, many were never even given the chance to have a funeral at all. Then at times when people were identified they were so far gone that funerals had to be carried out differently or they were impossible to carry out at all. Often times in war bodies are lost on a battlefield but more often than not families are given the comfort of eventually being able to bury their loved ones or receive the closure to know that they are confirmed to have been lost in battle. With these events during World War II many of the families never even came close to that

The Jewish and Japanese cultures surrounding death around these tragedies have changed since World War II. The Jewish community celebrates an event called Righteous Among Nations, which is an age-old tradition in the Jewish religion, except after the Holocaust, the Jewish people turned a lot of attention to those who were non-Jews during World War II that helped Jewish people hide from the Nazis. Martin Gilbert talks of his story of walking to Mount Zion in order to celebrate the lives of those who were lost during the Holocaust along with those who were saved by non-Jews. [9] This promotion of those who showed kindness in times of absolute fear and death truly shows what Jewish culture is about. The Japanese had a slightly different change in culture than the Jewish people, however, it still promotes similar qualities. Funerals became more commercialized according to an elderly Japanese man as the funeral industry began to rise after World War II, causing a change from funeral rituals to funeral ceremonies. [10] This change also led to a change in the way the Japanese viewed funerals as they became less of a cleansing of the spirit of the deceased to a promotion of a positive view of the person who passed.

After the war, the recognition of WWII victims’ identity is still in progress. Once the deceased is found, people will first use data from archives, historical reports, and memoirs of witnesses to denote the area. The preliminary conclusions are drawn as to the belonging of the deceased to a certain military unit. These conclusions are based on the various artifacts found next to the remains, like underwear buttons. For instance, Soviet soldiers’ buttons were made of plastic and had a small size, white color, and three or four holes. German soldiers had metal saucer-shaped buttons with three holes. The most definitive finding for identification is post mortem medallions. Until 1943, the Red Army employed paper medallions placed in bakelite capsules; after 1943, medallions in the form of a small paper book were introduced. The problem with these medallions is that, decades after being in the ground, their interpretation requires a special expert approach. [11] Thus, recently, The DNA technology is increasingly utilized in this situation. The step after the recovery and excavation of the skeletal remains is the anthropological examination. The remains were usually cleaned, washed, dried and partially reconstructed. Efforts were made to determine sex, age, and stature. The absence of a clearly female pelvis or skull was taken as satisfactorily evidence of the individual being male. The epiphyseal fusion was the primary way to determine ages. The remains were also carefully examined for signs of disease, injury, or skeletal anomalies. All injuries were noted in detail, with emphasis on type and location of the injuries, and photographs were taken. The step towards the DNA testing is the collection of sample blood from the alive, usually some voluntary families.  In most cases, preferred samples from the deceased body included either a molar or sample from a femur. The surface of the skeletal element was removed to eliminate gross contaminants and dirt. These samples were able to provide DNA files to be screened for possible matches to family reference. The missing Norwegian World War II soldiers in Karelia Russia were successfully identified using this method. [12]

Nowadays, when any dog tags or other clues is found, the staff in charge will check their records and clarify the individual fates of the war dead. If the identity can be established, the staff will send relatives notification like during the war. [13]

The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project, established by Yad Vashem, is aimed to collect names of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Through the Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, people can search for information about their family history during the Shoah. There is also The Page of Testimony restoring the personal identities and the brief life stories of the Jews. [14]Except that, the ability to deal with these lost lives and give them proper burials is still an issue. In January of this year the British Jewish community carried out a funeral for 1200 unidentified victims of the holocaust. [15] The Rabbi carrying out the funeral processions would speak on this in mentioning that although these people remained un-known they were still very much so people. Even with this the families of these people were unaware of whether or not it was their loved one, and this funeral was meant to be an act of respect for those lives lost. At the time of the holocaust they lost this due to the cruel actions of the Third Reich. The destruction of natural human rights was so extreme a funeral with even the slightest amount of respect for a Jewish person in the camps was intensely unlikely.

 

Citation

[1]”Burying the Dead in WWII: The Quartermaster Graves Registration Service” Warfare History Network. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/burying-the-dead-in-wwii-the-quartermaster-graves-registration-service/.

[2] “Ethical Dilemmas in a Time of Genocide.” Facing History and Ourselves. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/resistance-during-holocaust/ethical-dilemmas-time-genocide.

[3] Jewish Funeral and Burial.” Shiva Connect- Jewish Funeral and Burial. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://shivaconnect.com/jewish-funeral/jewish-funeral-and-burial/.

[4]”Treblinka: Revealing the Hidden Graves of the Holocaust.” BBC News. January 23, 2012. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16657363.

[5]The Shadows of Hiroshima: Haunting Imprints of People Killed by the Blast.” The Sun. April 05, 2016. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/155844/the-shadows-of-hiroshima-haunting-imprints-of-people-killed-by-the-blast/.

[6]”After the Bomb: Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Share Their Stories.” Time. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://time.com/after-the-bomb/.

[7]”Asian Visions of Authority.” Google Books. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=crJCNLyCnPYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA19&dq=japanese funeral culture hiroshima&ots=YpPGXbGVUR&sig=BisI7JchIaVqdcxa33OScz7lYP4#v=onepage&q=japanese funeral culture hiroshima&f=false.

[8]”3 Stories from Survivors of Hiroshima.” History Hit. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.historyhit.com/three-stories-from-survivors-of-hiroshima/.

[9]”The Righteous.” Google Books. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=1mQBeR9F0isC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=holocaustfunerals&ots=ctGnLTWtyo&sig=yNDf7Q_V5ZJ0gnaV6TyHwC4DXag#v=onepage&q=holocaust funerals&f=false.

[10]”Handbook of Death and Dying.” Google Books. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=Br51AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA656&dq=japanese funeral practices world war II&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjKh9mtkL_hAhWpnuAKHU3sAZwQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=japanese funeral practices world war II&f=false.

[11]Kornienko, I. V., M. Yu. Vakulenko, T. G. Faleeva, I. N. Ivanov, and N. V. Kononov. “Successful Genetic Identification of Remains of World War II Red Army Soldier.” Russian Journal of Genetics54, no. 4 (2018): 482-88. doi:10.1134/s1022795418040087.

[12]Morild, Inge, Stian S. Hamre, Rene Huel, and Thomas J. Parsons. “Identification of Missing Norwegian World War II Soldiers, in Karelia Russia.” Journal of Forensic Sciences 60, no. 4 (2015): 1104-110. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12767.

[13]Smoltczyk, A. “Skeletons of The Past: Helping Europe’s War Dead Find A Final Resting Place.” Spiegel. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/bones-of-world-war-soldiers-still-being-excavated-across-europe-a-1029530.html.

[14]”Names Recovery Project.” Yadvashem.org. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.yadvashem.org/remembrance/names-recovery-project.html.

[15] Thejc.com. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/1200-attend-special-burial-service-for-the-remains-of-unknown-victims-of-the-holocaust-1.478826.

 

Post Member: Yingke Lu, Rob Brandon Lewis, Josef Alvarado

 

 

 

 

 

International Military Approaches to Mental Health and Suicide

 

https://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/Global_AS_suicide_rates_bothsexes_2016.png?ua=1

Global Suicide Rates from 2016

Suicide can be found in every culture at some point or another and is usually the result of complex factors that are social, cultural and religious as well as a result of mental health.1 According to WHO, the World Health Organization, suicide is responsible for almost 800,000 deaths worldwide every year. Between 1999 and 2014, in the United States the rate of suicide was 10.3 to 13 suicides per 100,000 people a year.2 Within the last ten years, Korea has had one of the highest suicides rates of 28.5 suicides per 100,000 people a year. 3 Within the population, those in the military are not immune, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in the US military. 4 It is therefore no surprise that suicide rates have raised public and professional concerns. However, suicide is a complex topic with multiple influencing factors. In order to understand the alarming levels of suicide in service members, it is important to reflect on the cultures surrounding those in the military, to understand how different countries’ handling of mental health affects the rates of suicides in service members. It is also important to compare whether voluntary or mandatory service might be a factor in the higher rates of suicide found in countries with mandatory service, such as Korea and Turkey, and those of voluntary service such as those in the US and UK.

Suicide is often a result of mental illness, and access to psychological help can aid in lessening the number of suicide deaths each year.5 Over the years several signature mental health wounds have impacted military service members. During the Civil War there was Soldier’s Heart, during World War I, there was Shell shock, during the Gulf War, there was Gulf War syndrome and during Iran and Afghanistan there was PTSD. Mental health in the military has not been a rare occurrence and yet, many times the cultural perceptions of mental health have prevented those suffering from reaching out for help.6 In an interview conducted during PBS’ series, War on the Brain, US veteran Soledad O’Brien, spoke of his struggles with accepting that he had PTSD and needed help. He said that one of the main things he learned from the military, was that as a leader he had to override pain and doubt; having PTSD was not something that he could identify with. In the military, he learned to fight through every challenge he faced, and he believed that PTSD was no different, he could simply fight it out on his own.7 This concept that, as a solder, admitting you have PTSD or mental health issues, portrays you as weak because you are not fighting through it, is a primary factor to many service members not seeking out help which can lead to dire consequences such as suicide.8

In the UK, social stigma against mental health is also prevalent. In a study conducted by Iverson et Al., they showed that many service members were afraid of getting help during and after their time in the military. Many reported they feared that their employers would blame them for their mental health. Service members currently in the military were afraid that the members in their unit would have less confidence in them if they sought help.9 South Korea and Turkey showed similar opinions on military service members and mental health. Negative cultural views on mental health, are impairing service members from seeking help, and this problem seems to be shared among the US, UK, South Korea, and Turkey.

T//www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG265.htmlhe difference between the US, UK, South Korea and Turkey is whether their military is volunteer based or mandatory. The United States and the United Kingdom both have All-Volunteer Forces. South Korea has retained their draft mostly due to unresolved conflict and the feeling of constant threat from North Korea. Turkey has retained its’ draft for the same reasons, they are under constant threat by their surrounding neighbors.10 The UK was one of the first nations to switch from a draft to an All-Volunteer Force and was soon followed by many more, leaving those who opt to retain a draft as a shrinking minority.11 The changing to an AVF, in the US and UK, changed the societal views of the military from being negative to bringing a sense of respect and prestige.12 Due to the large amount of advertising and recruitment, and joining the military becoming a choice, there has been a heightened social regard toward those in the military.13 Surveys have shown that the military is seen as one of the most respected public institutions in Europe.14 This begs the question as to whether the positive view on the military and the ability to decide whether to join the military or not impacts quality of life and reduces the amount of suicides within the military.

//www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG265.html

South Korean soldiers at a checkpoint

In an article in The Guardian, Justin McCurry tells the story of Sergeant Lim who killed five colleges and was later pursued by troops and caught. Before being drafted he had been flagged as “special attention’ and was considered a suicide risk but was still drafted.15 Two weeks after this happened, two soldiers hanged themselves while on leave.16 Sergeant Lim’s case might be an isolated incident, but South Korea has been reported as having one of the highest rates of suicide in the military.17 This would suggest that having to join the military has led to decrease in quality of life and increased suicide rates. While this might be the case in South Korea, it would be inaccurate however to make this assumption globally, based on Turkey’s suicide rates. Suicide rates in Turkey make up only 1.72% of total deaths, this places them at lower rates of suicide than the United States.18 As a result, there is no clear indication that changing from a draft to an AVF has a significant impact on suicide rates. In order to reach a more definite answer, more research into several other countries and their militaries would be needed.

General Suicide rates

Mandatory enlistment

South Korea

According to the latest WHO data published in 2017 Suicide Deaths in South Korea reached 16,078 or 6.56% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 24.21 per 100,000 of population ranks South Korea #10 in the world- worldlifeexpectancy

population : 58,065,097

Turkey

According to the latest WHO data published in 2017 Suicide Deaths in Turkey reached 6,861 or 1.72% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 8.61 per 100,000 of population ranks Turkey #114 in the world.- worldlifeexpectancy

population: 82,961,805

Voluntary enlistment

US

According to the latest WHO data published in 2017 Suicide Deaths in United States reached 45,986 or 2.01% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 12.70 per 100,000 of population ranks United States #47 in the world.- worldlifeexpectancy

Population: 329,093,110

UK- kings college of london-do this one

According to the latest WHO data published in 2017 Suicide Deaths in United Kingdom reached 5,500 or 1.17% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 7.52 per 100,000 of population ranks United Kingdom #123 in the world.- worldlifeexpectancy

Population: 66,000,000

Military Suicide Rates:

Mandatory enlistment

South Korea

The number of suicides in the military steadily rose from 67 in 2004 to 97 in 2011 before falling to 79 by 2013.

The current rate stands at a little over 11 per 100,000 which, the defence ministry notes, is lower than the national average of 23.5 suicides per 100,000 for South Korean men aged 20 to 29. (2014)

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-12/an-south-korea-military-suicides/5666658

“Suicides Spark Concern over South Korea Military Service.” ABC News, ABC, 12 Aug. 2014, www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-12/an-south-korea-military-suicides/5666658.

Turkey

“In the last 10 years, 818 Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes, while in the same period, the number of soldiers who committed suicide amounted to 934” (This is the closest information that I could find for military suicide rates)

https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2015/03/14/more-turkish-soldiers-died-from-suicide-than-combat-in-10-years-panel

Atakan, Didem. “More Turkish Soldiers Died from Suicide than Combat in 10 Years: Panel.” DailySabah, Www.dailysabah.com, 15 Mar. 2015, www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2015/03/14/more-turkish-soldiers-died-from-suicide-than-combat-in-10-years-panel.

Voluntary enlistment

US

(2018) “A total of 321 active-duty members took their lives during the year, including 57 Marines, 68 sailors, 58 airmen, and 138 soldiers.”

The last DoDSER was for 2016, when the rate across all the military services was 21.1 deaths per 100,000 active-duty service members.

Rates for the individual services that year were:

  • 19.4 per 100,000, based on 61 deaths, for the Air Force;
  • 26.7 per 100,000, based on 127 deaths, for the Army;
  • 15.3 per 100,000 based on 50 deaths, for the Navy;
  • and 21 per 100,000, based on 37 deaths, for the Marine Corps.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/01/30/active-duty-military-suicides-near-record-highs-2018.html

Kime, Patricia. “Active-Duty Military Suicides at Record Highs in 2018.” Military.com, Military Advantage, 30 Jan. 2019, www.military.com/daily-news/2019/01/30/active-duty-military-suicides-near-record-highs-2018.html.

From 2015 to 2016, Veteran suicide rates decreased from 30.5 per 100,000 population to 30.1 per 100,000 population.

The number of Veteran suicides per year decreased from 6,281 deaths in 2015 to 6,079 deaths in 2016 (Figure 1).

In 2016, the unadjusted suicide rate among Veterans was 30.1 per 100,000, while the rate among non-Veteran adults was 16.4 per 100,000… In 2016, the age- and gender-adjusted rates of suicide were 26.1 per 100,000 for Veterans and 17.4 per 100,000 for non-Veteran adults.

https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/OMHSP_National_Suicide_Data_Report_2005-2016_508.pdf (VA Suicide report/Article)

Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Veteran Suicide Data Report, 2005–2016. September 2018. https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/data-sheets/OMHSP_National_Suicide_Data_Report_ 2005-2016_508-compliant.pdf

UK-

The suicide rate among males aged 16-59 years in the UK general population in 2016(latest data available and used as a proxy for 2017) was 18 per 100,000 compared to a UK Armed Forces rate of 8 per 100,000 in 2017.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/694148/20180327-UK_AF_Suicide_National_Statistic_2018_O.pdf (article from UK on military suicide)

 

To understand the ethical impact of both voluntary and mandatory military service throughout multiple countries, we must first understand the implications of becoming a service member. As Mobbs and Bonanno stated in their article, the entry-level training (most commonly known as boot camp) is meant to strip away both the civilian and individualistic identity of a person. This then forces a person to integrate into an institutionalized routine where one learns of their obligations to the person next to them, creating a more collectivistic nature. 19 Going through this and becoming a part of the subculture that is the military can be in and of itself a traumatic experience for some, but how does this change as one goes to and returns from war?

//www.suzanneopton.com/soldier

Soldier: Birkholtz
“In making these portraits, I hoped to photograph the invisible. I thought that by looking in the face of a young person who had witnessed something unforgettable we might imagine what he had seen or done, or not done.” Suzanne Opton

A country’s decision to go to war means asking a service member to walk into a morally complicated situation in which they have a high chance of killing a person,witnessing someone getting killed, getting injured, and many other potentially traumatic experiences. While these are all things a service member knowingly and willingly walks into, It nonetheless has a huge impact on their personal well-being. One potential consequence is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), in which a service member constantly relives their traumatic experience, thus impacting their overall quality of life. 21 A second potential consequence is moral injury, where there is a transgression against one’s strongly held moral belief about something. 22 Both PTSD and moral injury do not just impact a service member after they leave the war, but can impact them while they are still on active duty. This creates a unique challenge in that service members suffering from one or both of these conditions are highly unlikely to seek treatment due to stigma within this subculture and the fear of potential career consequences. 23 Not seeking help when a traumatic experience first arises can prolong the service member’s suffering, carrying over to when they return home. Their return home and how well they adjust back to civilian life can be impacted greatly by whether they live in a country that has voluntary military service or mandatory military service.

Within a country that has voluntary military service, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, there are both non-problematic and problematic issues. The main non-problematic issue is that having a voluntary military service means people often join the military to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. 24 Therefore creating an environment where people are more motivated and thus have a better overall morale which can lower the risks of developing mental illnesses. However, having an all-volunteer force means that when these veterans return home, they are returning to a society that by and large, does not understand them. 25 The gap between veterans and civilians is one of the most problematic issues within this system, because it creates a world of isolation for the veterans leaving them between a state of military and civilian worlds, known as the concept of liminality. 26 Liminality therefore consequently increases a veteran’s struggle with mental illness and raises their risk of suicide. This state of liminality is also why a service member often deals with the complexity of both missing and not missing war.

https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_junger_why_veterans_miss_war 27

On the other hand in a country, such as South Korea and Turkey, where military service is mandatory one can see the opposite of this system. Having a mandatory system means that when a veteran returns home they are returning to a society where everyone understands them, subsequently lowering one’s risk of feeling isolated and the issues that come with it. However, having a mandatory military service creates the ethical dilemma of autonomy which is a person’s capacity and right to self-determination and self-governance. 28 By making military service a requirement a country’s government is in essence taking away one’s autonomy and freedom to choose. By doing so, a government can have service members who are greatly unhappy and at higher risk of developing mental illnesses and suicidal ideation.

In conclusion, a service member goes through difficult stages as they both transition from civilian to service member and service member back to civilian. The level of mental illnesses and suicides that are experienced within this subculture is greatly impacted by the system a government has in place regarding its military. While there are ethical issues with both voluntary and mandatory military service, the responsibility to understand and care for these veterans falls to everyone. After all, they risk a great deal to protect us.

Alejandra Fernandez-Borunda

Jamie Hutchison

Angel Daniel Andrade

Footnotes

1 Niederkrotentaler, T. “Characteristics of Suicide Decedents Receiving Mental Health Treatment Prior to Suicide: United States, 2005-2010: Thomas Niederkrotenthaler.” European Journal of Public Health 24, no. 2 (January 10, 2014). https://academic-oup-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/eurpub/article/24/suppl_2/cku163-041/2839338.

2 N Niederkrotentaler, T. “Characteristics of Suicide Decedents Receiving Mental Health Treatment Prior to Suicide: United States, 2005-2010: Thomas Niederkrotenthaler.” European Journal of Public Health 24, no. 2 (January 10, 2014). https://academic-oup-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/eurpub/article/24/suppl_2/cku163-041/2839338.

3 N Lee, Sang-Uk, Jong-Ik Park, Soojung Lee, In-Hwan Oh, Joong-Myung Choi, and Chang-Mo Oh. “Changing Trends in Suicide Rates in South Korea from 1993 to 2016: A Descriptive Study.” BMJ Open, September 28, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6169778/.

4 NDepartment of Defense. “2015 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report Annual Report.” June 21, 2016.

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6 N Niederkrotentaler, T. “Characteristics of Suicide Decedents Receiving Mental Health Treatment Prior to Suicide: United States, 2005-2010: Thomas Niederkrotenthaler.” European Journal of Public Health 24, no. 2 (January 10, 2014). https://academic-oup-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/eurpub/article/24/suppl_2/cku163-041/2839338.

7 N NewsHour, PBS. “The Stigma That Stops Veterans from Getting Help for PTSD.” YouTube. March 29, 2017. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiyYLaDre6I.

8 N NewsHour, PBS. “The Stigma That Stops Veterans from Getting Help for PTSD.” YouTube. March 29, 2017. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiyYLaDre6I.

9 N Iversen, Amy C., Lauren Van Staden, Jamie Hacker Hughes, Neil Greenberg, Matthew Hotopf, Roberto J. Rona, Graham Thornicroft, Simon Wessely, and Nicola T. Fear. “The Stigma of Mental Health Problems and Other Barriers to Care in the UK Armed Forces.” BMC Health Services Research 11, no. 1 (2011). doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-31.

10 N”Turkish Army.” Turkish Army – All About Turkey. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://www.allaboutturkey.com/army.htm.

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12 NBoene, and Bernard. “Shifting to All-Volunteer Armed Forces in Europe: Why, How, With Wh…” Forum Sociológico. Série II. February 18, 2009. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://journals.openedition.org/sociologico/347.

13 N Boene, and Bernard. “Shifting to All-Volunteer Armed Forces in Europe: Why, How, With Wh…” Forum Sociológico. Série II. February 18, 2009. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://journals.openedition.org/sociologico/347.

14 N Boene, and Bernard. “Shifting to All-Volunteer Armed Forces in Europe: Why, How, With Wh…” Forum Sociológico. Série II. February 18, 2009. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://journals.openedition.org/sociologico/347.

15 N McCurry, Justin. “South Korean Soldier Sentenced to Death for Murder of Five Comrades.” The Guardian. February 03, 2015. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/03/south-korea-soldier-death-murder-comrades.

16 N McCurry, Justin. “South Korean Soldier Sentenced to Death for Murder of Five Comrades.” The Guardian. February 03, 2015. Accessed April 07, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/03/south-korea-soldier-death-murder-comrades.

17 NLee, Sang-Uk, Jong-Ik Park, Soojung Lee, In-Hwan Oh, Joong-Myung Choi, and Chang-Mo Oh. “Changing Trends in Suicide Rates in South Korea from 1993 to 2016: A Descriptive Study.” BMJ Open, September 28, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6169778/.

18 N”Turkish Army.” Turkish Army – All About Turkey. Accessed April 09, 2019. http://www.allaboutturkey.com/army.htm.

19 N Mobbs, M. C., Bonanno, G. A. “Beyond War and PTSD: The Crucial Role of Transition Stress in the Lives of Military Veterans.” Clinical Psychology Review 59 (2018): 137-144

20 N Opton, Suzanne. “Soldier.” Suzanne Opton. n.d. https://www.suzanneopton.com/soldier.

21 N “PTSD Basics.” PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/what/ptsd_basics.asp.

22 N Maguen, S., Litz, B. “Moral Injury in the Context of War.” PTSD: National Center for PTSD. n.d. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/moral_injury.asp.

23 NGreene-Shortridge, T. M., Britt, T. W., Castro, C. A., “The Stigma of Mental Health Problems in the Military.” Military Medicine 172, issue 2 (2007): 157-161

24 N Klay, Phil, “The Citizen-Soldier: Moral Risk and the Modern Military.” Brookings. Last modified May 24, 2016. http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2016/the-citizen-soldier.html.

25 N Mobbs, M. C., Bonanno, G. A. “Beyond War and PTSD: The Crucial Role of Transition Stress in the Lives of Military Veterans.” Clinical Psychology Review 59 (2018): 137-144

26 N Herman, A., Yarwood, R., “From Services to Civilian: The Geographies of Veterans’ Post-Military Lives.” Geoforum 53, (2014): 41-50

27 N Sebastian Junger, Why Veterans Miss War, directed/performed by Sebastian Junger (2014; New York: TEDSalon, 2014), TED Talk.

28 N “Autonomy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.iep.utm.edu/autonomy/.

29 N Quirk, Danny. De-facing PTSD. Depression Awareness. Twitter. April 5, 2014. https://twitter.com/UKDepression/status/452439414451355649.

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