When I first heard the news that I had tested positive for a random drug test I was devastated. I hadn’t touched drugs in over two months and was transitioning into a senior role within my company. Hearing the words, “you popped on the piss test” was one of the few occasions in my life where I could feel everything that lead up to that moment come to a complete hault. My chest dropped and guilt sunk in; I was busted.
From first hand experience I could tell you that drug use was a big deal in 2004. Prior to hearing the news, our Battalion Commander gave a big speech about how bad Marines will be rooted out (the same Marines that had just returned back from war). Little did I know, I was already on that bad Marines list and just hadn’t been advised yet. But the point is that there were many Marines discharged from my unit due to one time drug offenses. That doesn’t make drug use ok by any means, but I truly believe it should have sent a different indication up our command chain. Your warriors are damaged goods. They need help. Instead it was about getting the “bad ones” out with no regard for previously demonstrated honor, courage, & commitment during the war just months earlier.
So this leads me to my first question: How many Marines & Soldiers, who served during war time in a combat MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) and earned the appropriate ribbons/medals, were discharged under other than honorable conditions?
The answer to this is significant because it gives The Other Thans a clear starting point. How many people are without VA benefits, still dealing with PTSD, suicidal, still hooked on drugs, or even worse, already dead?
Here is where I began my search:
Google Search #1: “stats about military discharge types”.
Initially, I thought I hit the gold mine when I found a user ask the perfect question “I’m looking for rates of military discharges by type – honorable, dishonorable, Other Than Honorable, Bad Behavior, Officer, ETC. It would be really, really awesome if I could find this information by veteran’s living in state or city, specifically Chicago, Illinois. But just finding military discharge rates nationwide would be awesome.” This blog was from a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, user1412 only asked this one question on this site and never received a solid answer. One of his responses did send me on my way to this site which unfortunately captures data from the VA which is where “other thans” are not eligible for any benefits nor to claim the title Veteran.
The only other comment on this discussion board stated, “You may also want to look at the Current Population Survey (CPS) Veteran’s Supplement. The survey is a joint effort by the US Census and BLS. I can’t seem to find a direct link to a dataset (except for Universities which require a subscription), so you may be stuck using data.gov’s DataFerret.” and so I made my way over to data.gov and went on a 15 minute long search through that site which didn’t have any relevant information except that the Freedom of Information Act might be a good angle.
Google Search #2: “freedom of information act military service records”
I was impressed to know what a great job we do at preserving our nations documents and service members records. Yet with todays technology, it was hard to believe that there were no mass data sets open for the public such as number of discharged service members in a given year, relevant discharge type, age/sex/rank/ribbons earned etc.
On the archives.gov site there are several grant opportunities and so I think approaching them with some ideas about discovering combat “other thans” and capturing their stories as a part of America’s military history might be worthwhile. Either way, their site did not give me what I needed, though I was easily able to request a copy of my own military records (takes an online submission and fax or mailed signature—much easier than 10 years ago).
Their site sent me here but that site was mostly about historical information from WWI and WWII soldiers. I would be interested to see what types of discharges were given during that time period. I hope our nation was a bit more lenient on those soldiers considering the sacrifice they made. I emailed them to see if they could refer me to a source that has mass data points because their site and archives.gov is namely for pulling individual records and you need to be next of kin for detailed info.
Two hours later.
Google Search #3: “stats about military discharge types”
This guy tried to answer: “How many people are dishonorably discharged from the US armed forces every year?” This wouldn’t have given me everything I am looking for because I need at least a combat MOS, combat action ribbon, and other than honorable discharge.
His initial post was in reference to this article which is no longer available for review online. Reading through the comments on the initial article, I found Jag sites for the Army, Navy, and Air Force which were supposed to reflect the types of discharges for each military branch. I decided that the combat MOS’s I am looking for will come from the Army and Navy (Marines), not that I don’t think the Air Force plays a significant role in combat, but because they do not serve in an infantry capacity.
After a few minutes of navigating the jag sites, I still haven’t found what I need. Tomorrow is another day.