In an article entitled “‘You Can’t Fix the Problem If You’re in Denial:’ The Military’s Surge of Fentanyl Overdoses,” Military.com tells the story of Carole De Nola, whose son Ari McGuire, “a 23-year-old reconnaissance scout with Fort Bragg’s storied 82nd Airborne Division,” died of a fentanyl overdose.
[O]n a Friday night in August 2019, De Nola got a call from an Army officer: Her son was on life support in a Fayetteville, North Carolina, hospital. Ari’s heart had stopped beating while riding in an Uber, coming through the gate at Fort Bragg. An ambulance had managed to revive him, and Ari was induced into a coma upon arriving at the hospital.
De Nola, her husband Joseph, and the cantor from their synagogue had made the daylong trek from California to North Carolina to say goodbye to Ari. “When we got there, the doctor told us that there was nothing they could do. I’m sure that the whole hospital heard me screaming.”
Unfortunately, statistics show that Ari is not alone. His death was one of 332 fatal overdoses within the military, according to information newly released by the Pentagon on ODs between 2017 and 2021. That five-year period also saw 15,000 non-fatal ODs among the active-duty force. Fort Bragg is a known drug “hot spot“; “Thirty-four soldiers died at the base between 2017 and 2021; it also saw a 100% increase in drug crime over 2021. Those deaths account for more than 10% of the total fatalities reported by the military.”
Gil Cisneros, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, stated in a letter accompanying the new fentanyl statistics that “[w]e share your concern that drug overdose is a serious problem and must be addressed.” But “De Nola said that she doesn’t feel that the military has done enough.” Others agree.
Alex Bennett, a professor at NYU’s School of Public Health who has led several studies addressing opioid-use among military veterans, stated that “what we have in the military is sort of an epidemic that’s not fully acknowledged.”