Recently it was my honor and pleasure to, for the ninth or 10th time, to listen to a daylong motivational seminar given by Lieut. Col. Dave Grossman U.S. Army retired Ranger, researcher, and downright just plain good guy. And having listened to Dave before and been able to sit down and have conversations with him privately I know where Dave's heart lies. It lies truly in the domain of a person who has dedicated his entire life to protecting and serving the citizens of this great country, a claim not many can make. And even more, dedicated himself after so-called "retirement" in that he travels the world still teaching our military, and other countries military, and our law enforcement personnel in what are truly ways only Dave can do. His talks are inspiring, intuitive, insightful, and at times heartrending.
This last time I had the great honor and privilege of picking up Dave from the airport hanging out with him for the day and then taking him back to the airport after his talk. This gave me a unique opportunity to speak with him on several different topics, some personal, some professional, and some faithful. One of those topics that he brought up and we discussed was the myth about our returning veterans from this last decade of war coming home and committing violent crimes, specifically murder. And just not them coming back and committing violent crimes, but the myth that they are coming back and doing it at "an alarming rate" or "a rate higher than normal" or other such ridiculous claims. Dave had shared with me something he had heard on NPR radio that I had not. Had I, I would be as incensed as he was. He heard on NPR this ridiculous and blatant smear on our returning vets "over 100 veterans have come home and committed murder!". While taken in just that context that may sound alarming or even astounding when it is our veterans you are talking about. Men and women trained in combat and tested in fire. But what does that number really mean? Dave took the time of course being the great researcher that he is to find out, and what he found out may interest you.
The following is a piece from an upcoming article that has not yet been published but Dave has given me permission to use this in any format or forum that I want to and I'm choosing my blog as the beginning, and will be carrying this to the media and hopefully beyond. So here's what Dave told me about this scaremongering claim.
Many times, across this last decade of war, law enforcement leaders and trainers, politicians, business leaders, and media reporters have asked me, with great and sincere concern, about our returning veterans and their potential for violent interaction with police. They are worried about the "whacko veteran" coming home and committing violent crimes. Is this a legitimate concern? Just how much should we worry about this possibility?
I heard a National Public Radio piece a few months ago, saying that, "Over a hundred veterans have come home and committed murder!" Think about that for a minute...
We've had over 2 million Americans in the war zone, and are currently in our 10th year of war. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics tells us that the homicide rate for Americans between ages 18-25 is around 25-per-100,000. (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/tables/oagetab.cfm) So, out of any million Americans in that age group, there should be around 250 murders per year. Out of 2 million, there should have been 500 murders. Extrapolate that back across 10 years of war, and there should have been, statistically speaking, thousands of murders by this population group. All they "proved" is that the murder rate for our vets is less than a tenth of that for other citizens of the same age! (Which is pretty much in keeping with the stats from our past wars.)
Many of those who are concerned about our returning veterans are demonstrating a noble and patriotic response. But a lot of this concern is based on flawed information. Our veterans deserve our support, primarily by honoring them, thanking them, and (most important of all) employing them!
They are our nation's finest. And we will "be there" for that small percentage who have some emotional and psychological baggage. But we must never forget that a new "Greatest Generation" is coming home.
Those in our media who are perpetuating this myth are deeply offended when you tell them that good things can come out of war. The idea that war tends to strengthen, empower and mature a veteran is contrary to a deeply held, almost religious philosophy of the "evil" of war.
The whole idea of the "whacko" veteran coming home and committing violent crimes is basically a media myth. Worst yet, upon close examination, it appears to be, in large part, a politically driven myth, claiming that our veterans are, "Victims of an Evil President's Evil War!"
During the Vietnam War the media depicted our returning vets as "baby killers" ... "villains" supporting an evil war. Some of them were spit on and attacked upon returning home. (If you don't believe that happened, read the section in my book, On Killing, that addresses and documents this.)
Today our veterans are being depicted as "victims" and "damaged goods" ... but at its heart, at its core, the goal is still the same: to systematically undermine the war and our nation's ability to wage war.
The great military author and retired Army officer, Ralph Peters, wrote in the New York Post (Jan 21st, 2008) that this is an "obscene bid to smear veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as mad killers." (He was talking about an article in the New York Times, but with NPR and others picking up the drumbeat, his words apply to the media in a broader sense.) He goes on to say that the media:
"...is trying to make you fear our veterans (Good Lord, if your daughter marries one, she's bound to be beaten to death!). And to convince you that our military would be a dreadful place for your sons and daughters, a death-machine that would turn them into incurable psychopaths...
Pretending to pity tormented veterans (vets don't want our pity - they want our respect), [this is, in reality] an artful example of hate-speech disguised as a public service.
The image we all [are] supposed to take away [is] hopelessly damaged, victimized, infected human beings who've become outcasts from civilized society... our vets as freaks from a slasher flick.
The hard left's hatred of our military has deteriorated from a political stance into a pathology: The only good soldier is a dead soldier who can be wielded as a statistic (out of context again). Or a deserter who complains bitterly that he didn't join the Army to fight . . .
Yes, war is a terrible crucible. Some vets, past and present, do need help. And they deserve the best help our country can give them. But the left-wing fantasy of hordes of psychotics driven mad by drill sergeants and Army chow is just that: a fantasy."
The result is a generation of slandered veterans who currently have an unemployment rate of 20% (largely because employers don't want to hire "damaged goods"!) and a nation that has been primed to look for, to seek out, to amplify and exaggerate any examples of the "whacko, murderous, out of control, returning veterans." But our veterans are not victims, and they are not villains, they are our nation's finest, forged in the flames, and prepared to give 100% to those will employ them. The vast majority of our veterans do not experience post-traumatic stress (PTSD) ... they experience post-traumatic growth! Everyone has heard about PTSD; how many have heard of the far more common stress response know as post-traumatic growth?
And it is absolutely vital that we confront this slanderous myth, on every front, because it undermines our very ability, as a society, as nation, and as a civilization, to fight the Global War on Terror and to fight for our survival.
So let me ask you when you have a group of people who are less likely to do violent harm to other humans than the average citizen, and yet are taught, at times even forced to do violence, and they are no longer in that position and return to a peaceful society what should we do with them? I say a perfect place for them to be is simply the civilian version of what they are, make them cops. They're the protectors of our land, they can continue the fight to stop the threat that most citizens wish not to confront nor to even acknowledge. So I encourage my returning veterans to seek out your local law enforcement or public safety department and apply for a job, I for one is a law enforcement trainer, 30 year law enforcement veteran, and former Army veteran invite you with open arms into my world as the sheepdog to help me protect the sheep.
May God bless you and watch over you and protect you and your families. May you rest easy at night knowing that there are men and women out there every day and night willing to do violence and stop the threat, stopping or if necessary, doing violence to those who would harm you and your loved ones.