On Monday morning, as the news of the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard began to surface, I had a thought I'm certain I shared with millions of Americans - I hope it wasn't a veteran. Unfortunately, in this case, it was a Navy reservist never deployed overseas.
But whether or not the alleged shooter was a vet begs the question -- why do we associate acts like these with veterans?
One of the primary reasons that we have come to almost subconsciously associate violence -- and in particular, large-scale violence -- with our veterans, is that many in the media have encouraged an over-generalization and simplification for all of these tragedies. If you watched cable news coverage this week, the narrative quickly evolved into a "disturbed vet" trope: he had served in the military and may have been diagnosed with PTSD, there's nothing too surprising about that. After all, who among us hasn't seen movies like "Rambo"? With less than 1 percent of the population serving in the today's military, it's all too easy to think, "Oh, he was just another 'disturbed' veteran with PTSD. That makes sense."
This irresponsible narrative is sadly not only inaccurate and cuts journalistic corners, but it's also unfair to the millions of those who have served this country, in peacetime and in war, and who are contributing positively to their communities. It disregards the real stories that could and should shape a national conversation around mental health and our nation's responsibility to our veterans.
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