I just found out that U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been officially charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after the shooting rampage he went on in Afghanistan two weeks ago. If convicted, Bales could be sentenced to death. I'm not going to lie, the news made me cry. I cried for all the Afghan men, women and children he killed when he went on a shooting spree after leaving his military post in the early morning hours of March 11.

But I must say that I mostly cried for him, a 38-year-old father of two, and his family. You might think I'm crazy, but having done extensive research and interviews about the topic of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries among soldiers, I've seen first hand what combat can do to these men and women. And it's not pretty.

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I'm not saying Bales shouldn't be punished for the massacre, but then again, so should the U.S. military for deploying soldiers in multiples tours of duty, despite obvious signs of PTSD and TBI. 

Bales, who was on his fourth tour of duty, (the first three were in Iraq), had suffered head and foot injuries, not mention countless acts of violence and death typical of a war zone. That's probably why his civilian attorney, John Henry Browne, who has said that his client's mental state is an important factor, doesn't think the government will be able to prove its case. Although legal experts have said the death penalty is unlikely since the military hasn't executed a service member since 1961, the mandatory minimum sentence for Bale would be life imprisonment with the chance of parole. In other words, he might as well be dead.

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I remember being just as shocked as everybody else when I found out about the massacre, but I thought back immediately to what some of the soldiers I've interviewed have told me about what it's like to be surrounded by death and destruction all day long and to have PTSD or a TBI to boot. They say it's like you're a time bomb waiting to explode. Unfortunately, not many soldiers get out of this unscathed.

From alcoholism to suicide and murder, unbeknown to many people in this country, our soldiers are paying a very, very high price in the name of freedom. The time has come for all of us to wake up to this reality and do something to prevent it or we'll start seeing more and more cases like this horrific one on a regular basis. It's only natural. 

What do you think about the Bales case? How many tours of duty are one too many?

Image via AP

About the author

Roxana A. Soto is Features Editor of MamásLatinas. She's a bilingual and bicultural journalist born in Peru and raised in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Miami. She's also mom to a girl in 3rd grade and a boy in Kinder. She loves books, languages, traveling and good food – especially when cooked by someone else.

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