LIMA — In Sean C. Rowe’s book the “Dark Side of the Army” he talks about his experiences, the problems soldiers face, how he got out, and his plan to build a center that will help soldiers in need.
Rowe, a Lima native and Elida High school graduate, explains what a lot of people are not aware of.
“This is an organization where one person every day commits suicide while several more are trying,” he said. “Someone needs to be whistle blowing but there is a lot of intimidation because speaking out is insubordination. There is too much at stake, soldiers need the money to support their family, they don’t know what kind of job they could get outside of the military and there is a fear of the unknown of what will happen to them.”
Because of his own experiences and his research regarding other soldiers in his same situation, along with the suicide of a cousin who was married with a child, he chose to become vulnerable enough to tell his story in effort to draw attention to the problems and save lives.
“I was just a few months shy of my eight-year contract in the military and forced a general discharge because I took steps to force it,” he said.
Before that time he earned an Army Commendation Medal and several Good Conduct Medals but found he was disheartened, depressed, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal.
The DodSER [Department of Defense Suicide Event Report] was launched in 2008 to track and help in deterring suicide behaviors in the active military. As of January, there was no report available for the year 2014, but the 2013 report states there were 479 suicides and 1,080 attempts. Statistics available for veterans are much higher.
“I became passionate about this because of my experiences. I briefly contemplated suicide and was depressed. Criminal abuse and negligence is rampant in the military today,” Rowe said. “There is no good exit strategy; there is no way out of the military contract that lasts six to eight years. Many soldiers want to get out but don’t know what to do. The contract is the most highly enforceable contract in the market today. If your boss is criminally abusive you could walk away from the job, but you can’t do that in the military.”
One of the issues that Rowe addresses is back-to-back deployments.
“Soldiers can’t handle another deployment and there is so much stress that people don’t realize is involved,” he said. “There are bad leaders who take their anger out on the soldiers.”
While many people are familiar with the idea that basic combat training is rough and designed to make a good soldier, Rowe said the same mindset follows soldiers throughout their entire experience in the military.
“Leaders are not taught the different style of leadership between boot camp and a daily leader,” Rowe said. “There are good units, but many active duty leaders treat their units as if they are boot camp instructors by constant public humiliation, ridiculous and cruel punishments, harassment, criminal abuse and negligence. Many soldiers cannot handle it but are only offered pills and counseling if they seek help. Neither one addresses the real problem, just the symptoms.”
In chapter four of the book he explains his exit strategy and how he got discharged to help those who are also looking for a way to get out.
Rowe does not simply want to point out the problem but has also given much thought and planning to help those who are leaving active duty and coming home to bleak job opportunities and a need to transition from active duty to home as well as current veterans struggling.
“My vision is for a unique veteran center and organization completely independent from the government that would help with the issues soldiers are facing,” he said.
He detailed his plan in the final chapter of the book and said that $600,000 would build the Veteran Rehab & Refuge center.
While the book details his personal experiences and observations he also has some of the solutions that can happen from the inside of the military. He briefly said, “Stop walking kids into six-year contracts, stop yearlong and back-to-back deployment, make soldiers’ welfare a priority and treat them with respect, and put more money into helping the soldiers.”
He is also the founder and former leader of Veterans Against ISIS.
He said he dedicates himself full-time to helping solve the problem saying that soldiers and veterans need a real change that will have to come from outside the system.
“My goal is to save lives,” he said. “We could easily, significantly reduce soldier suicide if priority was placed on raising awareness and making the changes that soldiers need. I also want to warn potential recruits and their families what happens in the military.”
The e-book is available for purchase at http://www.darksideofthearmy.com, which contains links to Facebook and Twitter and Veteran Rehab & Refuge. Rowe can be reached at email@example.com.
Janet Ferguson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Lima News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.