The Truth Board

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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


            When I was called in November of last year I had no idea that the conversation would haunt me. My cousin is 23, married, has one son, and lives in the rural outskirts of Boise, Idaho on an Army base with her husband. About 2 years ago, an amorous romance paired with an unplanned pregnancy brought the couple to the altar. In those two, almost three years, the army has deported him 3 times, totaling about 8 months away. Last November, she and I were on the phone when she told me about the troubles of her marriage. The problems were typical of newly married parents, but I suggested that she take advantage of the excellent psychologist afforded to her by the military. “Oh, no. We can’t talk to them,” she quickly replied. Being a psychology major, its no surprise that I’m appalled by the current state of mental healthcare and the stigma against it. “But Katie, it could be really good for you…” I started, but she interrupted me. “No, its not that I don’t want to, Daniel wouldn’t do it. He can’t talk to a counselor while he’s being put up for a promotion. It wouldn’t look good, and they would probably pass on him,” she calmly told me.
What I was hearing was that a man who had committed himself to the armed forces, putting his life and his psyche on the line, who had access to the best mental healthcare in the country, couldn’t talk to a marriage counselor because it would stain his resume. In a country that idolizes its military, bolsters without reservation, and flaunts without humility, wouldn’t they be the first to protect their soldiers? “What if he had something serious? What if he came back and had PTSD?” I asked her, expecting her to explain the differences between that and marriage counseling. “It doesn’t matter. The guys who have psychological problems just hide it and deal with it the best way the can.” She was talking about it as if she was simply reading a bottle label. “There are plenty of women that I know whose husbands have PTSD,” she said with the same monotone, “It’s a part of army life. We just know that we can’t ask for help because that would deter any promotions in the future.” I must have been breathing heavily, but the silence caused her to chuckle and say, “Yeah, its fucked up.” Understatement of the year.
I wanted to yell. I did yell. My patriotism questioned from the depths of my being, “Why the fuck are we letting them do this?!” Stigmatizing mental illness when it’s a byproduct of a work environment that men sometimes cannot choose to quit is a crime against the soldiers who put their lives on the line. When a country trains its army men and women to abandon their civility and autonomy to become a part of a war machine, it cannot forsake those men and women when they are in need. A man who looses his arm will be afforded the best medical care in the free world, but when that same man loses his sanity, he is penalized. War crimes couldn’t seep into the home front; but with the number of military suicides surpassing the number of deaths in battle, what else could we call the lack of care but a war crime?

Nicole O.


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