Monday, November 20, 2006

Rise in Motorcycle Deaths in the Armed forces

Rise in Motorcycle Deaths in the Armed forces

This article really struck something in me, that I'd like to discuss. First off it brought to mind the great T.E. Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia," seen to the left on one of his many bikes, one of which, was literally the death of him. In a way that makes him the patron saint of Western veterans of Middle-Eastern conflicts who tragically die on two-wheels upon returning home.
There has always been a strange link for me between motorcycles and the "warrior" mentality. Coming up, a lot of the adult bikers I knew were also Vietnam Vets, which I think influenced that connection at least as much as pop-culture images. I guess a lot of it has something to do with the macho fascination with pushing yourself to your limits, yet still maintaining control. Living on the edge. C'mon, the original Hell's Angels were ex-fighter pilots, who were trying to find the rush of dog-fighting in civilian life.
It's just a strange sad corellation. Motorcycles as a therapy for shell-shock and PTSD. I'm not saying that I relate. I've never been in combat, I've only faced the threat of mortal violence on a few occasions. But I've got my demons. And let me tell you brothers and sisters, those demons can easily catch you in a cage going 60. But they can't touch me on a Vespa doing 35.
Life and Death, the two wheels we balance on every day. Some of us try to forget it, push those thoughts away, insulate ourselves from it. And some of us just need to be reminded of it, to realize that every day we make it is another day we have snatched life from the jaws of death.
Sounds grandiose, I know, especially coming from a guy who rides a scooter. And I ride it safe, I armor up, I swallow my pride and let cagers pass me routinely. I don't have a death-wish. But still, there was a time when people had a concept of a "good death." Being plucked from this planet right as I pop a perfectly tuned two-stroke into fourth... I'd be happy with that.
Life and Death, those two wheels are inseperable, the beast can't move with only one. The true joy of living comes from balancing them both. The joy you see on Logan's face when he pop's Cyklops' bike into gear in the X-Men movie. The look on Harry's face as zips into the clouds at the end of the "Prisoner of Azkaban" film.
So yeah, even though I've never been in combat, and hope to never to do so, I sure understand why these boys are buying the big bikes, and tempting the fates. And with all that said, I think these statistics are a great argument for no-shame readily-available PTSD therapy for those returning from combat zones. It shames us as a nation, that these boys have no where else to look for it but steel and chrome.

from the article-
A big part of the problem, say commanders at North Carolina bases, comes when soldiers return from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan with months of tax-free salaries and extra pay for combat and overseas service. They buy high-powered motorcycles and hit the streets to burn off adrenaline, testosterone and boredom.
Dying on American roads after months or years of combat abroad seems to survivors like cruel irony. ...

Sgt. Bobby Barker, 26, a handsome paratrooper whose shyness belied a daredevil approach to living, was home on leave from Afghanistan on Dec. 5 when he decided to take a ride on the Harley he had bought himself for his birthday. He was rounding a curve at Fort Bragg doing 90 mph or more when he drifted wide and a foot-peg snagged a traffic barrier. His widow, Deanna, 25, said she purposely hadn't sought much detail about what happened next.
She was left alone to raise their three young children.
In an interview last week, she recalled his deployment to Iraq -- where he was injured during a raid -- and then his volunteering for Afghanistan. He had sent back photos of himself checking caves for insurgents, photos that told her about some of the dangers he hadn't talked about.
"Being a soldier's wife, you know there is always the possibility ... ," she said, her voice trailing off. "But I always thought he was safe when he was here. That's the thing I'm having the hardest time with."
There's probably nothing that the Army or anyone else could have done that would have helped, she said.
"Honestly, I don't think anything could have prevented the accident," she said. "This wasn't the first time he had opened up the throttle. It was just him being himself."


Anonymous said...

I personally didn't get my PTSD in the military, but my time there didn't help things, and eventually I was diagnosed with it and separated. I ride many miles because it's good therapy for me, but I also try to ride smart. Most of these young bucks aren't being educated about the dangers of two-wheeled transport. The Coast Guard required that all motorcyclists take a safety course before they could get a base sticker for their bikes, but often the sticker was given ahead of time because the course wasn't available for a few weeks. Just one day is long enough to kill yourself.
As common as motorcycles are in military culture, you'd think there would be more support, more education. It WILL come as a result of unneeded deaths, though.

punkelf said...


I agree that riding is good therapy. Riding smart, even more so. I should also add that when Jes and I did the Basic Rider's Course this Sept. (2nd time for me) most of the class were guys from nearby Fort Lewis. And they were taking it seriously. And while your point is totally valid, I do think the military is to commended with the measures they have in place to encourage rider safety. It's way beyond what we see in the civilian world. That being said, motorcycles and having something to prove are not a good mix. A lot of guys enlist 'cause they've got something prove, and maybe even more come back from combat duty with something to prove. And your right, just one day, is all it takes...