People are sharing how serving in the military has ruined their lives with #WhyIServe

The U.S. Army/Flickr Madison Valentina/Twitter

The U.S. Army started the hashtag as a catalyst for positive stories.

A hashtag started by the U.S. Army to illustrate how serving in the military has changed peoples lives for the better, has backfired into a thread about how it’s ruined people’s lives.

The U.S. Army shared a video of Private First Class Nathan Spencer on Thursday, just ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

“The Army supported me the opportunity to do just that, to give to others and protect the ones I love and to better myself as a man and a lawyer,” Spencer says in the video.

“How has serving impacted you?” the U.S. Army asked in a follow-up tweet.

While Spencer’s post was likely supposed to inspire others to share similar stories, it spiraled into a rather morbid thread about the numerous ways serving in the military has entirely changed people’s lives—and not for the better.

There were stories about addiction among veterans.

The most common accounts were of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health trauma among people who had served in the military.

https://twitter.com/Ariiibabi/status/1132086995784818688

https://twitter.com/MistressArdent/status/1132494384673353728

Many continue to suffer from various health issues after they return, and it’s exacerbated by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) reported lack of initiatives to help them out.

Some detailed health effects veterans suffer because of what they were exposed to during their time at war. 

https://twitter.com/captainmattel/status/1132114125499359233

Many shared accounts of the suicides of loved ones. 

People shared how some service members bring back the violence into their own homes due to the trauma they’ve experienced.

Others pointed out how recruiters target young, desperate individuals right before it’s time to go to college.

The thread barely has any positive accounts of #WhyIServe. 

https://twitter.com/Coops_Tra/status/1132482194222403584

It was obvious the thread had gone in an entirely opposite direction of its intended course. 

People called on the VA to finally take action.

https://twitter.com/ByteMaddy/status/1132176509853143040

On Saturday, the U.S. Army responded to the experiences in a tweet.

“To everyone who responded to this thread, thank you for sharing your story. Your stories are real, they matter, and they may help others in similar situations,” it wrote. “The Army is committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our Soldiers.”

People weren’t satisfied, wanting more than just words.

“Why can’t the U.S. military actually put its time and effort into helping those who served and came back a completely different and damaged person. why do we glorify veterans if we don’t help them after all the trauma they have had to live through and still struggle with,” wrote one user in response.

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Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque