Since the United States launched its War on Terror in Afghanistan in 2001, proceeded shortly thereafter by its invasion of Iraq, more than 2.6 million American soldiers have been deployed into war zones in the Middle East. An unfortunate number of Americans have been either killed or injured as a direct role of their service to this country, and for that, we should be forever grateful.
According to a recent report, however, more marines in Southern California have died here at home than when the unit was dodging bullets in Baghdad. The Associated Press reports that since the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center started deploying troops to the Middle East in 2007, 60 service members have made the ultimate sacrifice. Back in SoCal, 64 marines have been killed. The biggest offender? Auto accidents. 28 men and women in uniform have died following car accidents caused by excess speed and irresponsible drinking practices.
“Marines getting hurt or even dying in car accidents after they have bravely served our country is disheartening,” says Jason A. Charpentier, Attorney at Growe Eisen Karlen. “I see serious accidents in my line of work all the time and the vast majority could have been prevented. Speeding, texting, driver inattention and drunk driving are the causes of most accidents. It is really a shame that someone who put him or herself in harm’s way to serve this country was hurt or killed when they get home by something that was most likely completely preventable.”
The Statistics Point to an Ongoing Military Problem
Unfortunately, these completely avoidable deaths highlight an ongoing problem of risk-taking behavior and abusive drinking practices in the military. The problem is so substantial that The Huffington Post reported in 2012 that themilitary’s culture of drinking and bad behavior had turned from an “abuse culture” to a “crisis.” Among all military personnel, approximately half of all active members say they binge drink.
The military, for its part, seems to be taking a token role in reducing the incidence of these issues overall. In 2012, the Institute of Medicine prepared a report for the Department of Defense with multiple recommendations to help rein in the issue. The report recommended increasing screening of military personnel in order to check for issues with substance abuse, making efforts to educate people on the problems of abuse and the ensuing stigma, and limiting access to alcohol on base. The problem? Even by following these steps the military has little impact on the actions of its men and women when they’re off duty.
As marines in Southern California continue to get themselves killed, not to mention the civilian drivers who are unfortunate enough to be on the road at the same time, the question has to be asked: If the military isn’t willing to take serious steps to curb the issue, what can be done?