Military Command

On November 24, 2014, the United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, announced his retirement from his position. This makes him the third Secretary of Defense under the Obama administration to retire without serving a full term. Before Mr. Hagel served, both Leon Panetta and Robert Gates stepped down after serving just a few years under President Obama. What is going on in this administration? Why are these men not willing to serve the entire length of their appointments? It would seem that there is a very significant problem at the top of our military command that is making one of the most prestigious positions in the American government unattractive. What is it that these men do not want to be a part of?

Recently, I have become acquainted with a young US Marine. This young man has spent twelve years of his life fighting for America in places like Afghanistan, but was diagnosed with a severe case of posttraumatic stress disorder and is finishing out his time here at home. He told me that he is only able to relax while he is petting the family cat. And unfortunately this young man is not alone.

Studies have shown that at least 20% of our young men and women returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. The news is full of stories of damaged, angry, and frightened soldiers who snap under stress and do horrible things they regret. Just this month, a former Marine who had been deployed to Iraq and who was in treatment for his posttraumatic stress disorder murdered his ex-wife and five of her family members following a dispute about the custody of their children, before eventually taking his own life.

While not all veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder are a risk for violent or dangerous behavior, they are all at risk for negative outcomes or self-harm, ranging from intense anxiety, to ruined families, to alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide. Over 300,000 veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have received treatment for PTSD, and the New York Times reported in 2012 that suicides of active duty personnel are now actually outpacing combat deaths. The American military is clearly suffering from an epidemic of traumatized soldiers, to the point that the Department of Defense has had to create offices specifically to try to prevent the suicide of military personnel. At the same time, the entire military is facing a slashed budget, making it more difficult to provide help and services to veterans.

There are clearly serious problems with how our troops are being treated and cared for. There are thousands of stories of soldiers who are already suffering from PTSD being redeployed for a second or a third time, where their symptoms only get worse. Our soldiers are clearly being pushed beyond the breaking point. The highest levels of our military command seem to have developed a strategy of pressing our troops to serve beyond safe limits and discarding them when they return home, no longer able to function.

It seems like President Obama is unable to keep a Secretary of Defense for more than a couple of years because they do not want to participate in this abuse and misuse of our military personnel. No matter how much a Secretary of Defense might want to help our troops, they still need to answer to the President. We need a leader who cares about the health and safety of our military personnel, which is one of the reasons I am running for President in 2016. If you care about supporting the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect America, I ask you to please cast your write in vote for me, Art Drew, in the 2016 Presidential election.