Published May 07, 2010
Prepare for troops’ transition before tragedy strikesTHE OLYMPIAN
With the recent tragedy of a soldier accused of killing and then disposing of his wife’s body within the vicinity of their daughter, I have only one reply: It’s going to get worse. We have more than 3,700 troops returning to our area in August. Couple that with minimal job prospects as it stands right now for these troops along with trust issues, infidelity issues — warranted or not — and a dose of potential post traumatic stress disorder related to numerous deployments, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Yet it seems that the only time that there is any teeth in addressing this litany of concerns is when a tragedy unfolds — like what happened recently here in South Sound. We hear best practices this and best practices that, but only after something tragic like this happens. You would think that both our state agencies and our federal agencies would look at bases that have historically had numerous deployments, say Fort Bragg, and analyze what has been both their successes and failures in addressing the phenomenon we are about to see in the Puget Sound area. Then we should incorporate and use what we can from their experience and dismiss what doesn’t apply. This, I believe, would offer the troops and our community some sort of plan, some sort of proactive measure. But I don’t believe it will happen. Here’s why. We have people who are making the decisions where to place our resources, or whether to address or not address these issues, who have no tangible experience. The analogy would be someone who has never experienced military service or shouldered a rifle in defense of our country, telling combat veterans like myself and others, what it’s like going to airborne school, being in an airborne unit, and going to combat with a unit. In a nutshell, they have no experience, training, or knowledge, but have all the authority to decide on the services those who have served, need. It’s like — what my father would say — going to hamburger joint for a slice of pizza. Sure, they might make a great slice, but why risk it? What officials should do is find the experts and go there. Like I said previously, what we have developing is a recipe for disaster, because they do not either see, or choose to see, the impending storm clouds approaching our area. After laying out the problems, let’s look at some possible solutions. Consider the five “Ps” — prior planning prevents poor performance. Let’s start planning now for these soldiers’ return. Let’s start ramping up our family and marriage counseling services. Let’s start ramping up employment services. Let’s start ramping up our mental health services — now. Let’s talk to the experts. Let’s incorporate what they have learned, what has worked for similar communities like ours. Let’s get to the root cause of these tragedies to attempt to prevent any more from happening. That’s what we should do. That’s what our local and state officials should do, and what we owe to our returning veterans. We should all buy in to this because the last thing we need is a generation of children that have essentially lost both parents long after the last shot has been fired. Lucius Daye, a service-connected disabled veteran, is working on his MBA degree from Syracuse University. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, he can be reached at email@example.com.