Soldier and Achmed the Dead Terrorist Team Up

OK, he’s not really Achmed (Jeff Dunham’s famous ventriloquist’s dummy), but you can see the family resemblance.

veteran-and-skeleton

The dead guy in BDUs is, in fact, a dummy, made of a craft-shop skull and some pillows for stuffing. The live neckbeard is one John Newcomb, “who served as an infantryman for two years,” and who is trying to raise awareness about veteran suicide.

Newcomb is tired of losing his friends to suicide, and he wants fellow veterans to know their struggles are never too heavy and that he will help carry them.

That’s why he marches through different cities in upstate New York with a 20-pound skeleton dressed in a uniform on his back — he wants people to know veteran suicide is still an issue and he wants to raise money to help.

“I am not naive enough to believe that I will ever be able to stop this sadness in its entirety,” Newcomb said. “But I have to try.”

We’re not exactly following how you get from a dude walking with a dummy to suicide prevention, but whatever. You can go Read The Whole Thing™, and let us know if you can figure it out.

We’re not averse to the idea of preventing vet suicide. Indeed, we prevent vet suicide every day, by not killing ourselves, and giving other vets the benefit of assuming that they, too, are not suicidal or otherwise damaged goods. But that’s just us. If Newcomb wants to stroll around with Achmed the Dead Terrorist on his back, it’s a free country.

22 thoughts on “Soldier and Achmed the Dead Terrorist Team Up

  1. James

    Works for me,anything to try and help,the suicide #’s are scary.The monies being put towards vets kids education is just a good thing,a better thing would be finding ways to help vets deal with issues,both service and non service related,what me mum did as a doc in Va for over 20 years.I had a friend for over a year live on me couch off and on,he had some real issues with what he dealt with in Iraq,and some personal before he was even in service.I was worried for a long time bu the seems to have moved forward in positive directions over the last decade or so.I will say he is still a pain in the ass,but hell,what friends are not?!

    1. Kirk

      “… some personal before he was even in service…”

      That, right there, is the sad truth behind an awfully large amount of PTSD and veteran suicide. God love these men and women for serving, as I do, myself, but… Sweet jumping Jesus, why the hell were they ever enlisted or commissioned in the first place?

      The Army and wartime service breaks people. Period. That said, it wounds my heart to have to acknowledge the fact that with a lot of these folks, we’re merely finishing the demolition job that unfortunate genetics, shitty parenting, poor life choices, and bad experiences started. And, worse, the “system” really doesn’t care: They are just numbers, grist for the mill, meat for the grinder.

      We know, or certainly could know, many of the markers for “PTSD propensity”. Why the hell aren’t we developing that knowledge, and using it to screen candidates for combat arms, at least? How about taking preventive measures, ones that actually work, as opposed to using hearsay, fantasy, and “old soldiers tales”?

      A lot of the issues with veteran suicide could be dealt with most effectively in the recruiting offices, I’m afraid. As I said, God love and honor these men for trying, but an awful lot of them had no business in the military–And, the military had no right to put them in harm’s way, either.

      Of course, you could make a case that the services don’t have a choice, needing numbers. But, then that throws it back on the rest of able-bodied and able-minded society for not stepping up to the plate and serving voluntarily.

        1. Kirk

          Note carefully and do not read into what I wrote: I did not say that it broke everyone, just that it “breaks people”.

          And, the corollary to that is that the majority of those “broken people” are folks who never should have been put into that position.

          I spent 25 years on active duty, dating back to the years when we still had Vietnam-era guys as mid-level NCO cadre. Some of those guys, you’d never have known they were combat veterans, except for their combat patches. Some of the others? Holy shit… Can you say “Dysfunctional combat veteran”? Yeah… And, when you sat and talked to the majority of those guys, got to know them, as I did, what you generally found was that they had lives before and outside the military that were horrendous. Alcohol issues, abandonment as children, divorce, you name it–And, the Army took them, put them into combat arms, and acted all surprised when it turned out that they couldn’t really handle the pressures.

          Nothing I saw on my trip from those days through both wartime tours in Iraq left me with any illusions that the Army changed, in that regard. What we were doing in the 1960s, we were doing in the 2000s, with the incredibly stupid addition that the idiots were waivering people into the combat arms who had extensive histories of being treated with psychoactives for things like ADD and hyperactivity–Both of which are anecdotal markers for that “PTSD propensity” I speak of. You sit down and talk to the people running the post-deployment assessment programs, and they’ll almost universally tell you that there are excellent odds that the kids we put into uniform who’d spent their childhoods medicated were experiencing a discernably higher rate of PTSD and other issues than other groups.

          The fact that the Army just up and decided that manpower needs trumped common sense, and that we should put these folks in uniform? Incredibly stupid, and just plain apathetic. It is, whether or not we want to acknowledge it, institutional malfeasance of an epic nature.

          I believe that the military has an obligation to take good and proper care of the manpower the mothers and fathers of this nation entrust to it, in that we should not expend those lives without good reason, and that we should return those men and women as we found them, mentally and physically intact. If we can’t, then we owe it to them and their families to make them as whole as we can manage–And, I’m going to submit that we have a responsibility, a duty, to ensure that we’re putting people into harm’s way who are as capable of dealing with that trauma as possible.

          I had two guys working for me, back in the 1990s. Both became junior NCOs, and went on to duty in other units. Longitudinally, one did really well with things, and the other did not. They both had very similar wartime experiences during the early years of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, and wound up going through the mill for things like wounds, TBI and PTSD. The guy who came out of it, weathered the storm? The key differentiating factor for him was that he had a very strong family backing him up, and had an exceptionally (sadly, these days) “normal” childhood, with an intact, two-parent home. The other guy, who I got word about through the grapevine a few years back, went to hell in a handbasket. Key difference, for him? Shitty, horrible childhood, no family backup at all, and a childhood that I think even Charles Manson would look at and say “Damn… That’s f****d up…”. I was worried about him even back when he was one of my privates, because even though he had his shit together most of the time, he had moments that made me suspect he was only barely coping, and was very “brittle” in a resiliency sort of way. He did all right, while he worked for me, but that was the late 1990s peacetime Army, and the challenges weren’t quite what they’d be during the following ten years.

          In honesty, I don’t think he should have ever been enlisted, and if he had been, he should have been kept in a field with low likelihood of seeing combat. Most of the crap I saw in him back in those days was stuff I think could be at least reduced to a background checklist, and used to screen for these things.

          People insist to me that this sort of crap isn’t predictable; I say that there’s a large part of it that can be. I once pulled duty for a friend of mine, in Korea; the driver he provided for me had me walking up to his quarters and asking him “Dude, where the hell do you keep the nuts to feed this squirrel you saddled me with for a driver, tonight?”. The kid was that “off”; I could tell, within a half-hour of just being around him and interacting with him that he had more “issues” than Playboy, and needed to be seeing someone. Sure as shit, after I rotated out, what do I get word of? Same kid, serious suicide attempt in the barracks.

          Some of this shit is identifiable, and, thus, preventable. The fact that we’re not doing more to identify and prevent is what I find disturbing.

        2. staghounds

          Several thousand soldiers and marines with limbs blown off since 2001 might not laugh with you.

      1. BillC

        “but an awful lot of them had no business in the military–And, the military had no right to put them in harm’s way, either.”
        1) quantify an “awful lot”. Have you surveyed all service-members in the military with psych tests? Do you even have any idea how many people recruiters turn away (whether they want to or not) for a multitude of reasons?
        2) the military does have every right in putting them in harm’s way.

        1. Kirk

          Bill, I spent 25 years running troops. I know what I saw, over those years: The Army doesn’t give a rat’s ass about whether or not they’re doing the right thing, with putting people in uniform. It’s a numbers game, and the “system” doesn’t care because nobody in authority really does, either.

          As far as “recruiters turning away” applicants? Don’t make me fucking laugh–I did that job. I know how it works–Even if you’re morally convinced someone shouldn’t be in the military, the rules are that as long as they can meet the qualifications and get a doctor to sign off on them enlisting, they’re in. Turning away anyone? LOL… You do not want to hear some of the things I have seen waivered, during periods of “low recruitment”. During the pre-Surge doldrums, circa 2004-ish, I had a kid show up in the unit who really, really, really shouldn’t have been in the Army. As in, the f*****g waiver packet he had was the size of a phone book for a medium-sized city. He’d been on drugs I had to go look up in the Physician’s Desk Reference, and which made me go “WTF were these idiots thinking…?”. He’d been hospitalized, residentially hospitalized, for an extensive amount of his childhood, and medicated for almost all of it. I got to deal with him after he had his third psychotic break on active duty, long before we even got his ass to any kind of deployment.

          He’s probably a VA statistic now, God help him. Never should have been in uniform, ever.

          As to the “right” the military has, to do these things? WTF? Are you seriously contending that we should not be screening for mental health issues, and that we should not be concerned if we put people into positions they are unfit for? What the hell world do you live in? What you are suggesting is tantamount to the NFL drafting Stephen Hawking to be a blocker, knowing full well of his ALS. The military has no business putting people who are identifiably damaged into a position where they can only do more damage to themselves–It is like taking a recovered alcoholic, and putting him into a position as a taster at Jack Daniels distillery.

          Not everyone can, or should serve. Think not only of the men and women who break under the pressure, but of the poor bastards who have to deal with them when they do. You don’t even want to know how much time we spent dealing with problem children in Iraq, or how much grief they caused the unit and their peers. And, just like LT Calley of My Lai infamy, those people never should have been where they were. Period.

          1. DaveP

            Kirk, I suspect I’m not alone in appreciation of the depth and thoughtfulness of your input here, case in point above. Thanks for taking the time.

            DaveP

          2. Cap'n Mike

            Bergdahl is a great example of what Kirk is saying.
            He gets discharged for psychological reasons, 2 years later he enlists again.
            He never should have been in any service.
            I have personal experience with an active duty USCG guy that had felony drug convictions from BEFORE he enlisted.
            Lots of people in the services that shouldn’t be there.

      2. John M.

        I have wondered this about homelessness numbers among veterans: How many of those vets would have been homeless even if they’d never served. It seems to me that the military operates as a bit of a “last stop” for certain types of folks in our society: undisciplined, aimless, marginal. That’s certainly not the majority of those in the military, but it seems to me that a significant percentage of those types of folks end up there. By my unscientific observation, for some of them it’s a disaster from the start, for some of them it’s wonderful while they are in, but once they are out they revert to where they would’ve been without the military, and for others the military helps them to shape up and figure out how to make decent enough choices that they can put a roof over their heads and food on the table after they get out.

        -John M.

        1. bloke_from_ohio

          Joe just hates the Army. So he gives big green the finger and gets out. Unfortunately, he has no plan. He does not think about what to do after he takes off his uniform, he just knows he wants out.

          In a few cases, he may not have a lot of skills that he can use outside the Army. Or, if he does have skills the private sector might want he does not market himself as having them. Perhaps he does not know, or perhaps he does not want to do the kinds of stuff he did in the Army. Perhaps his time in uniform was so distasteful he purposely avoids exploiting the skills he picked up.

          Regardless, without a plan Joe heads to the local community college. Mistaking the action of taking some classes with a plan for success. This is an all too common misconception that many people fall for, veteran and non-veteran alike.

          Anyway, instead of using the discipline he should have had beaten into his skull by his instructors and leadership to succeed, he faffs about and does poorly. Worse, the classes he is taking are likely useless. He fails at even the most youthful goal of reinvent himself let alone earning a degree. Soon his GI bill is wasted on classes that have little to no ROI. And he is stuck without a plan or many options.

          He can’t compete with his non-veteran peers, they have a years more time working in the private sector. And he has nothing to show for his time in either the Army or school. Furthermore, if Joe has stayed near the post since that is where all his buddies live. He is in an area with lots of discharged veterans in the same boat he is in. They are all competing for the same jobs. So his status as a veteran is not a positive discriminator. Disgruntles former troopers are a dime a dozen in military towns. And that does not even begin to touch on the damaged goods myth Hognose rails against that is working against Joe.

          Within a short period of time, Joe winds up destitute and the rest is history. Joe’s big “f*** you!” to the Army only screws him. His old unit gets a new bus full of PFCs the week after he leaves, and nobody is the wiser.

          Good leaders and mentors in and outside the Army can try to keep Joe from this path. But, folks like Joe sometimes won’t listen. Some people just self destruct despite the best efforts of concerned others.

      3. James

        Kirk,I suppose one could argue with merit that perhaps his stint in the military and the horrors he saw in combat helped save him.He found a strength thru training and later being with a group of brothers in tough times,could go either way I suppose.

  2. BillC

    “We’re not averse to the idea of preventing vet suicide. Indeed, we prevent vet suicide every day, by not killing ourselves, and giving other vets the benefit of assuming that they, too, are not suicidal or otherwise damaged goods. But that’s just us.”

    Not just you.

    The available data behind the “epidemic” of vet suicide and the “22 a day” number doesn’t support the narratives. (which is assuming it’s war vets, mainly young vets that where directly involved in the fighting over the past decade+) Most people blow way past the context. It’s because the public and the leaders wants the military vet to be broken, even though those with multiple deployments are actually very unlikely to commit suicide.

    The rate of suicide of never deployed vets is higher than those that have (the number is about 1 a day for OIF/OEF vets).

    In addition, the majority of vet suicides are for vets older than 50, where the majority of those did little or no fighting, at least in the recent wars. I recall that new boots in their first 3 months of service also take up a large number. There are a lot of flaws in the methodology, like not coming to a conclusion on why the old vet killed themselves (not like he or she can be interviewed). Was it because of service, or were they just old, broke, and directionless? (which I know several people in that age range who killed themselves for those reasons and never served). I’m not saying that suicide, or vet suicide, is not a problem; it’s just not a, well, I don’t think I can say it without sounding like a dick.

  3. DSM

    I would never deny someone wanting to try and change their world for the better even if I question the impact it will have. I think a lot of these folks doing these things could probably do more good investing that time and effort into volunteering at their local veteran’s home or hospital.

    1. James

      DSM,would say bringing attention to a issue,raising funds for a fallen friends service,finding monies not needed for service and thus giving to kids of vets not too bad a way to change things in my view.

      1. DSM

        No doubt. You use what has been given you to the best of your ability. I’m no scientist, I won’t discover the cure to cancer in my basement. John Newcomb may have used a similar thought process to reach the same conclusion; there’s a lot I can’t do, but this, this I can do. If it gets people engaged and motivates them to see it through then it’s a success.
        I was an SP for the bulk of my career (MP in Army speak) and responded to many attempted and completed suicides. Maybe my bias is showing that I’d prefer someone go to where the problem will most likely be.

        1. James

          DSM,your bias is a good thing in that it is postive and has goals,and perhaps what he is doing is helping move folks in that direction.I hope the friend I tried in many ways to help(along with many others)who now seems in a positive direction in life helps others in any way he can.

          On a side not,me uncle was a snake driver in Asia,then a instructor for helo pilots and then a large majority of his career as a MP.Now that I think about that seems a strange transition career wise,gonna have to ask next time I see him.

    2. Aesop

      But then he’d actually have to actually help actually icky real people, instead of simply virtue signaling to the other do-gooders.
      What’s the payout on that?!?

      1. staghounds

        I suspect he has made more than a few people speak to veterans who wouldn’t have, and that’s not nothing.

        1. Aesop

          I’m am guessing he has largely avoided making any impact on anyone’s life whatsoever, other than the occasional odd glance from passersby, and annoyed constables responding after a few calls to 9-1-1 about a guy carrying a body down the highway. But mine’s just a hunch.

          If we’re going to set the bar to the “If just one person…” level, he may as well have simply sat down in the street and set fire to himself, like the Buddhist monk from SVN in the ’60s.

          If he wanted to actually help, he could try manning a hotline, or any number of actual volunteer opportunities. But again, that’d be more of his skin in the game, and less flash. The issue, like most, wants pack mules, not peacocks.

          That his “contribution” gets covered at all has less to do with the breadth of the problem, than that it feeds the media’s meme that all vets are psychotic walking wounded, dragging themselves though one day after another, always barely a whisker away from snapping and gunning down an entire preschool due to the intense psychic trauma of exactly what they signed up for, despite mountains of actual evidence to the contrary. Giving aid and comfort to that leftist media trope trompe toujours is why my sole and fleeting attention given is to rhetorically fart in his general direction.

          But that could just be last night’s salad bar talking.
          As our host noted, it’s a free country.

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