The deaths that were experienced in Vietnam due to Agent Orange and other jungle diseases have become well known by the general public. However, it is suicide that has resulted in the deaths of over 150,000 Vietnam soldiers during and after the war. An enormous amount of suicides resulted from what most people call “protecting our country”. The Vietnam War brought more than fifty-eight thousand deaths and is to some one of the darkest battles in United States history. If not killed during the war, many believe any Vietnam veteran would return home great and proud. But this is not the case. Many Vietnam veterans have committed suicide before, during, and after the war. Not only have these men and woman risked their lives for our country, but now, return different people and can not comprehend whether or not to continue their lives. Many people believe we win wars, when in actuality, no one does, especially those who serve in the armed forces (Suicide Wall, 11-10-2000). The Vietnam and other wars have mentally and sometimes physically dismembered many veterans. Another factor that plays a role in a war-related suicide is the addition of many on-site diseases such as defoliants, Agent Orange in particular. Made up of equal parts N-Butyl Ester 2,4,-D and N-Butyl Ester 2,4,5,-T, Agent Orange made many Vietnam soldiers go insane (Vietnam Veterans, 11-10-2000).
This atrocious chemical lead and still today leads to death, deformation, and diabetes. Dr. Joel E. Michalek, who deals with statistics for the air force, was the first to notice a link between Agent Orange and diabetes. But the federal government was not willing “…to spend millions of dollars on such studies”. Dr. Michael Gough, a retired biologist was quoted as saying “the conclusion I’ve come to is that there is no evidence whatsoever to support any connection between low-level dioxin exposure and any human disease”. Some say they will not do research because it is another thing “…that will be linked to the health complaints of Vietnam veterans” (Kolata, A16). There is hope still. In 1996, Clinton ordered disability benefits for Vietnam veterans suffering from prostate cancer and nerve disease associated with Agent Orange. Eventually, the government will fund more and more diseases for those who served in the war and were exposed to the substances. No one really knows for sure what it does, but many diseases have been associated with the deadly defoliant, Agent Orange (Purdum, A17).
There have been so many suicides committed by Vietnam veterans; it is now on the most efficient tool of the twenty-first century. Sites have popped up all over the Internet dealing with the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. One site, apparently just on this subject, tells of different information on those committing suicide the most, Vietnam Vets. The site, “Suicide Wall”, “…is an attempt to determine how many Vietnam veterans have actually taken their own lives…” (Suicide Wall, 11-10-2000). An on going study on why and how these suicides take place is continuing everyday. A big controversy is actually how many people did take their lives due to the war. The United States have their statistics, but Australia went in-depth to see an actual amount. The U.S. claims about 58,000 suicides have taken place due to the war. This count is about 20% of all deaths in the Vietnam War, which would be placed in the category of suicide. But Australia believes through the same and other statistics that about 150,000 people committed suicide.
That would bring the United States’ percentage to approximately 50% of a suicide rate. No one could actually ever know how many died due to post-dramatic stress and different defoliants from the Vietnam War, but an ongoing struggle to understand what went wrong is continuing in the years to come. Many veterans served in Vietnam between 1969 and 1973. Between these years, three main chemicals were used as defoliants while the war was taking place. Being exposed to these chemicals provides a higher rate for any Vietnam veteran to commit suicide. The “…mortality rate in Vietnam Veterans was 17% higher than for Vietnam-era veterans during the first five years following discharge” (Kelley, 1997). Michael Dean served in Vietnam for only two years and, nearly never seen combat. In 1986, he killed his wife, 3 children, and himself in an apparent murder-suicide. In a suicide note found, he wrote “we the veterans, widows, and children of veterans are a forgotten group” (More Victims of Vietnam, 33).
More support continues to pour in from the government and presidents, yet no one takes the blame. Fifty-eight thousand died in the Vietnam War and over one hundred and fifty thousand have committed suicide soon thereafter. The more wars the United States has, the more deaths are accounted for. Suicide should be the last thought on any veterans’ mind coming home from any war-related battle. America has not won the Vietnam War. Veterans that have returned only to think about thoughts of death isn’t anything to cheer about. Post-Traumatic stress disorder is more likely to happen to veterans who were exposed to combat. The rate of suicide for a person with depressive disorders are eighty times higher than that of a normal male. Even those amputated in the war were thirty-seven percent more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population. So many different situations add to the thoughts of suicide for many Vietnam veterans, yet all factors are due to war. Those wounded more than two times are 95% more likely to commit suicide than if only wounded once.
According to all these statistics, it seems as though there is no possible way for one to live after the war. There seems to be no real way to come back as a normal, human being (Bullman and Kang, 662-67). War has become the number one way to settle disputes throughout the world. Wars throughout history have brought many horrible conclusions, but not anything as lethal as the war in Vietnam. It is a wonder how someone could escape death in battle only to come home and commit suicide. Defoliants, wounds, and war have turned these men into something unpredictable, but undetected to the human eye. There may be many success stories on those veterans that have overcome their fear of the war, but there are about five to one on those who aren’t with us anymore.
How does it look when we have to say, “War doesn’t kill people, they kill themselves”? People that favor the war probably do not know how it feels to be in that position, yet people still back it up. If fighting for our country means the destruction of thousands of lives by their own hands, then we should all be dead. People who committed suicide were not insane, just didn’t know the difference between right from wrong.Armies and Navies break men down and build them back up. But what happens to them when they come back home? No one to break them back down and up again. For all these reasons, it seems as though we are fighting for a lost cause. Suicide for some is just another word, but for those soldiers coming home from Vietnam meant a release for those things that they were ashamed they had done. Bibliography:
Bullman, Tim A.; Kang, Han K. “The Risk of Suicide Among Wounded Vietnam Veterans”. The American Journal of Public Health. May 1996 : 662-67 Kelley, Michael. “The Three Walls Behind the Wall, The Myth of Vietnam Veteran Suicide”. 1997. 11-10-00. Kolata, Gina. “Agent Orange and Diabetes : Diving into Murky Depths”. The New York Times. 30 Mar. 2000. A16. “More Victims of VietNam”. TIME Magazine. 17 Mar. 1986 : 33. Purdum, Todd S. “Clinton Orders Expanded Agent Orange Benefits for Veterans”. The New York Times. 29 May 1996. A17. Suicide Wall. 11-10-2000. Suicide Statistics. 11-10-2000. Vietnam Veterans. 11-10-2000. List of Toxic Chemicals Used in South Vietnam. 11-10-2000.