More soldiers on active duty committed suicide than were killed by enemies in combat last year, according to a figure released by the Department of Defense.
Despite these alarming numbers — 177 active duty soldiers killed themselves, while 176 were killed by others in 2012 — many Americans turn a blind eye to the nation’s wars. Today’s college students belong to a war generation, but it doesn’t feel like it.
When Truman ordered troops into Korea, students protested. When American soldiers were sent to Vietnam, college kids formed Students for a Democratic Society. A few years ago Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked confidential government documents that led to the end of the Vietnam War, spoke on campus about the need to question the government’s narrative of war. Still, college students fall silent when it comes to demanding answers about the wars that have driven many of our peers to suicide and the policies that have failed to provide financial and emotional support to the men and women who took up the fight their country asked them to win.
America’s wars are not just being fought abroad, our soldiers are bringing the battle home, and it’s critical that we, as a society, find ways to provide them with the resources they need to win. It’s too easy to see soldiers as patriots that go into battle with the training and mentality to handle what they have to do and return home to normal society. It doesn’t work that way, and it never has.
The role student activists play in the development of American policy cannot be lost. Academia is the heart of political and social thought, and right now America’s leadership must be reminded that the youth generation is willing to stand up to protect its peers. It’s not enough to click “like” on a Facebook post about aid to veterans returning home or post a status thanking the troops. The Internet and social media are important new tools to demanding justice, but “clicktivism” cannot fully replace outright, sign-yielding activism that has the historic significance to bring about real change. If college campuses around the country re-engage with the effort to police our nation’s leaders, we can force our government to give veterans the support they need at the same time academics hold politicians accountable for the wars they begin.