“War is hell.”
Daniel Somers and his family didn’t need Sherman to tell them this.
Somers was a distinguished Iraq War veteran who killed himself on June 10. The hundreds of combat missions and other action of which he partook left Somers with a legacy of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain injuries, and an assortment of war-induced injuries that rendered every moment of daily existence intolerable.
Shortly before taking his life, he wrote a letter bidding farewell to his loved ones. The latter has since given Gawker permission to publish it.
Upon informing his family that it was his love for them that managed to keep him alive this long, Somers goes on to describe his body as “a cage, a source of pain and constant problems,” and his mind as “a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety [.]” Somers writes that he is incapable of laughing and crying, incapable of deriving pleasure from any activity, save sleep. Thus, “to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.”
He assures his loved ones that it is not they who brought him to this point, but the government that forced him “to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe.” During his first deployment in Iraq, Somers states, he and his comrades-in-arms were made to perpetrate “war crimes, crimes against humanity.”
Though he insists that he made his “best effort to stop these events,” he is equally insistent that they were too horrible in nature from which to bounce back. Only “a sociopath” could achieve this feat, Somers asserts.
Yet for as unspeakable as these “crimes against humanity” were, it was covering them up that further fueled Somers’ despondency. “To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup [sic] is more than any government has the right to demand.”
While taking shots at Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney, Somers accuses his government of abandoning, not just himself, but just those veterans who it consigned to the hell of war, including and especially the approximately two dozen veterans who commit suicide each and every day.
Somers’ plight, like that of far too many veterans of the post-9/11 era, is, at best, tragic. At worst, it is scandalous, an outrage. In any event, though, its significance lies in the light that it sheds on our politics, particularly the politics of the Republican Party.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.