Days ahead of an annual holiday when Americans remember those who died while serving in the armed forces, the US Army’s Twitter account asked people how their time in the military affected them and received an outpouring of grief.
The question drew some 10,000 replies since it was posted late last week — many of which were anonymous or included details that could not be independently confirmed, but which paint a harrowing picture of the toll America’s wars have taken on those who fought them.
“OEF, OIF ptsd with chronic pain,” one Twitter user wrote, using the US military’s acronyms for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the abbreviation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The US launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq war in 2003. The conflicts left thousands of American service members dead and many more wounded. US troops are still deployed in both countries to this day.
“My dad came back from fighting in Iraq and was abusive, constantly angry, paranoid, and following that went through a lot of therapy but his mental and physical health are still off and he was definitely changed through all he had been through,” another user wrote.
“My son served and did one tour of OEF, he made it back, re-enlisted, and shot himself in the head,” said another.
“The ‘Combat Cocktail’: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage. It cost me my relationship with my eldest son and my grandson. It cost some of my men so much more,” another Twitter user wrote.
“How did serving impact me? Ask my family.”
Not all the replies were about the toll taken by combat.
“I was forced to resign my commission while serving in Kuwait during the first Gulf War because I am gay. I received an other than honorable discharge despite excellent performance reviews,” one man wrote.
An other than honorable discharge is the most severe military administrative dismissal. It can follow a former soldier well into civilian life, leaving them ineligible for benefits and making it difficult to find work.
The Army thanked those who replied to its official account, saying: “Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations.”
“As we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this weekend by remembering their service, we are also mindful of the fact that we have to take care of those who came back home with scars we can’t see.”