No matter how one feels about the “war on terrorism,” there is an immeasurable sadness experienced when viewing The Wounded Platoon. Focusing on the Third Platoon, Fort Carson, Colorado, this documentary from Frontline, depicts the emotional disorders and substance abuse problems exhibited by soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wounded Platoon is “the dark tale of the men of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion of the 506th Infantry, and how the war followed them home.”
The soldiers interviewed brought home stories of shooting unarmed citizens following the rage they felt when a respected and loved sergeant was killed. One soldier commented, “It’s easy to get away with that kind of s*** over there. You can just do it and be like, ‘Oh, he had a gun,’ and nobody really looks into it. ‘F*** it, it’s just another dead Haji.’”
They tell of the emotional pressure they endured, and the multitude of prescription medications for depression and other psychiatric disorders (as well as medications prescribed to help them sleep, such as Ambien) they suffered while deployed. But The Wounded Platoon is not just the story of what happened to these men overseas.
“Since the Iraq war began, a total of 17 soldiers from Fort Carson have been charged with or convicted of murder, manslaughter or attempted murder committed at home in the United States, and 36 have committed suicide.” Note that these numbers reflect Fort Carson, alone. In 2007, CBS news reported a “suicide epidemic” among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Others have expressed concerns that the suicide dead will outnumber the combat dead.
The Wounded Platoon paints a depressing portrait of the inadequate care provided soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to a shortage of mental health professionals to provide services, the Army is short on empathy (and perhaps too bottom-line oriented), as is demonstrated by emotionally scarred or ill men who receive less than honorable discharges and, therefore, are not eligible for services other veterans receive. Compounding the unfairness, many of these men—while still enlisted—sought help for the post-traumatic stress they suffered. (Visit PBS.org to watch the video, read interviews, and learn more.) The Wounded Platoon does an outstanding job of detailing costs of the war.
There is something raw and unsettling contained in the interviews with men who were heroic and now sit in jail cells for events that occurred when they returned to the United States. If “Is this the best we can do?,” is the question viewers ask, they will not be satisfied with the actions and answers provided by Army “brass,” in justifying the use of these soldiers.