Wednesday, October 20, 2010


An outfit called the Bay Citizen contacted me:

Hello Sean,

I'm with The Bay Citizen, an online news service based in San Francisco. We've just published an analysis of official death certificates on file at the Department of Public Health that reveals that more than 1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008. That figure is three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period.

The analysis represents the first attempt to measure casualties for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans after they return home. The figures, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, legislators and experts in post-traumatic stress, underscore how veterans in Bay Area communities and across the state engage in destructive, risky and sometimes lethal behaviors.

The data shows that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service. They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.

After reviewing your blog I thought your readers would be interested in this report. Thank you for the valuable information. I hope you find the article useful.

Aaron Rosenthal

My reply:

Hello Aaron,

If you've read any of my personal posts on STORMBRINGER, you may or may not know that you and I already have something in common; although I'm Australian by birth, I lived in San Francisco for several years before I joined the US Army - my entire time on active duty (over 25 years) I was a California state resident, although nowadays I live out on the mid-Atlantic coast.

Bottom Line Up Front: I am VERY suspect of any awareness campaigns that suggest veterans are susceptible to some kind of mysterious malady that makes them go crazy, dangerous to themselves and the people around them.

This theme began in the anti-war days of the 1970s and peaked with the Rambo movies. Basically, combat veterans are ticking time bombs.

We are not this.

This is an unproven hypothesis.

How about some statistics that show that veterans are more likely to succeed in life, at any venture they embark upon? That veterans give back more to their communities and to the nation than people who did not serve? The statistics are out there, and they tend to show that incredibly enough somehow, the combat experience leads to a more productive, enriching life.

Example: how do you explain for the World War II generation's incredible success? Those guys saw TEN THOUSAND TIMES MORE horrific combat than did veterans of Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan COMBINED, and yet they returned home, got to work, re-tooled American factories for peacetime goods and services, completed the Interstate Highway System amongst other things.

Regarding your analysis - I am always wary when statistics are thrown out there, and I don't like the word "expert". What makes a person a PTSD "expert"? I was taught that there is no such thing as an expert, only serious students.

Underscore how veterans in Bay Area communities and across the state engage in destructive, risky and sometimes lethal behaviors.

  • Yes it is true veterans engage in risky, destructive behavior - but these kind of behaviors are not exclusive to veterans.

The data shows that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service.

  • Although suicide IS a symptom of PTSD, again, this is not exclusive of veterans. One of the examples in your article could probably be more realistically described as "death by misadventure" - causes of death can sometimes be creative on death certificates. Drug overdoses are sometimes logged as suicides, although this is not always legit.

They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.

  • This might be so if veterans in that age group are twice as likely to own cars, and/or five and a half times likely to own motorcycles. What are the statistics on automobile and motorcycle ownership?

My point is that raw statistical data is not enough to tell the complete story. While PTSD is real and yes, IT IS LETHAL, way too much is unknown at this time to draw any kind of definitive conclusions.

For example, my community outside Fort Bragg is infested with paratroopers, Green Berets, and other Special Operations soldiers. We are career soldiers, professionals. The five houses that touch my property and across the street include a Green Beret sergeant major, a retired Marine who also did a stint in the French Foreign Legion, a squadron commander from SFOD-D, an Air Force reservist with multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, a North Carolina State Trooper, and a civilian who drives a cement truck. Between us we have over a hundred years of service time, and about twenty-five years of combat time. We all own heroic gun collections, and are all active shooters, hunters, outdoorsmen. Nobody beats their wife; no DUIs, no drama, nothing. The only guy we worry about is the civilian, and all he does is fish.

I can say the same of my many, many brothers in the Special Forces community around the Fort Bragg area, and around the country.

On the other hand, I DO know two guys who committed suicide and yes, I attribute this to PTSD. Two out of several hundred known friends, colleagues and professional acquaintances. I won't bore you with war stories, but yes it is common knowledge amongst professional soldiers that we have some sort of PTSD and it manifests itself in strange ways.

For what it's worth my brother has called me a "trained killer" and he's scared to death of me - and yet I've held a security clearance AND have carried a loaded gun on and off duty for over 27 years, there's nothing on my record worse than a speeding ticket, can't remember the last time I was in a fight of any kind, and the security job I hold is in a field so sensitive that a psych eval and regular urinalysis is required and any kind of reported aberrant behavior is basically a career killer.

Of course, my brother and his wife both think I'm the true-life inspiration for the Rambo movies - AND he's a journalist, so he'd probably be all over your analysis.

If you like, you can use the above for your paper - it would be a great honor for me to be published in my adopted home town of San Francisco.

Sean Linnane

Needless to say I have not heard back from them . . .




  1. SL. Thank you for the rare insight!

  2. Excellent retort. Among my Vietnam buddies the only problem is a couple of alcoholics. Most everyone has had a degree of success. Most are very stable and like you refer to, most have extensive arms collections. The only thing I would say ios out of the norm is the large number who are bachelors. I don't know what the basis for that is.

  3. If a statistician who is trying to make a living “and is therefore trying to please his employer” is hired by some San Francisco Bay news service to conduct a survey of this nature, could the results be skewed to show whatever the check signer wants to hear? Of course it could, and here again it obviously is. As Sean correctly identifies with the aggravation most all veterans can identify with, veterans have been slandered and insulted by the left in this country since Vietnam and still to this day would be, if popular opinion didn't shoot them down.
    The most promising thing about this reality for me though is that unlike the Hollywood depictions of the past, statistics such as these and movies which depict this kind of crap don't gain traction or make any money today. (Though Hollywood has certainly tried) Most people today know better than to allow today’s soldiers, many of them the kids and grandkids of the sixties, to fall prey to the slandering and insulting political posturing this kind of nonsense has generated in the past. Good job Sean.....jd

  4. Zoomie reservist? Be careful, man.

    The movies the likes of Clooney and co. make go overseas and make tons of cash in Fwance and like places where America bashing is popular. They couldn't care less if they make money here.

  5. Sean......Serously, One of your Finest.

  6. Well said. Very well said.

    Watch out for the cement truck driver. Them boys are crazy...

  7. Nicely said. What are the odds this moke ever realized that choosing to be alive involves engaging in dangerous, risky, and sometimes lethal behaviors? There is no free ride in life and life is not safe, even if you are NOT a warrior. Civilian and military, some people can hack it and some can't. Why not write an article on how Police Officers and Psychiatrists have a higher probable rate of aberrant, suicidal, and dangerous behaviors? What about reporters that go see the carnage every day and have to write about it for papers? Why in the name of all things holy and unholy is the fact that some people wig out in every field you can imagine, for various reasons, have to land on soldiers?

    I've known people that killed themselves over divorces, financial failures, substance habits, career reversals and not one of them were military. I've known many hard core soldiers that are the most pacifistic people you'd ever know because they have seen the violence that most people only see in a remote way in cartoon form on screens.

    This reporter is nothing but a troll and should go back under their bridge.

  8. SL et. al.
    I agree with Tom above and I will add this as my 2cents.

    It occurs to me that the young men (and women) who join the Armed Forces are those elements in our society who are not only the patriotic segment of our society but also the Risk Takers.

    I know this first hand as I spent 5-years of my youth working on the Flight Decks of two different aircraft carriers (CVA-62 and CVN-69) and my hobbies were things like rapelling and rock climbing before joining.

    I have two son's and being their Father I watched over both as they grew to manhood. Both are serving members, both were risk takers also one more so than the other. Of course the one that drove motorcycles and played Ice Hockey joined the Marines. The one that was a model aircraft (RC) pilot joined the Air Force.

    I honestly beleive that I my 9-months of worry over the health of the Marine while he was in Iraq and later when he was in Afghanistan is nothing compared to worring about him running round the countryside on his motorcycle here in the road ravaged, driver impared PA!!

    These young men are pre-destined to engage in risky behavior anyway.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  9. Since I grew up in California and have seen the carnage of the mental health system there I can be sure the so-called statistics are absolutely absurd. As far as I have heard, the so-called experts have also stated that 1 in 10 are emotionally troubled or mentally ill. That’s ten percent of all people, not just vets. And I am sure about 90% of them live in California. So if you are going to do a study, what are you going to use as a comparative control? Certainly not Californians! These vets were probably insane before they went in to the service...or perhaps they went insane after. Why blame it on war? Why not blame it on all the weed you smoke out there! California is not only the land of fruits and is also the land of dope. I don’t think they are qualified to do any kind of “analysis” on mental illness in our country, based on proprietary information from a state like that.

  10. One of my buddies from our early days as USAF milbrats has muppets of his own now. His dad never would let him have model rockets and arms, as he was pacifistic (military dentist). He laughed his arse off on that bit Mike posted about archery, because I'd instigated similar things in his kiddo's life, especially the pyro and we both have all our limbs and digits!

    His kids are old enough to appreciate things and they're working on Mach 2 model rockets. Good thing we became friends for the sake of his kids and for the sake of us, and I bet one of them muppets is going to be Space Command or an aerodynamic engineer. Fear never gets you anywhere. Learning and understanding can, on a good day.

    God bless our freedoms whilst we still have most of them.

    Was funny, when he called me up and asked about maybe making Mach 2 rockets that wouldn't violate FAA rules...was like being kids again, and his kids are going to be GOOD SMART KIDS and it brings a tear to my eye to know it. And we're teaching them how to do things properly and for the right reasons, no accidents.

  11. Sean,
    I was bored here in AFG and ran across your site while surfing the net. Keep it up brother. Tell it like it is and maybe someday the public will turn off their TVs, read books that tell both sides of an issue and (for the love of all that is holy!) think for themselves! Can't wait to read what's next.
    Current 3rd Grouper

  12. "They drew first blood!"