A staggering total of 109 soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg died in 2020 and 2021. In this important investigation, Seth Harp reports on record deaths at the U.S. Army’s largest base, including homicides, suicides, and accidental fentanyl overdoses. Otherwise healthy soldiers, like Matthew Disney, have been found “unresponsive” and slumped over in rooms and parked vehicles. But the Army continues to downplay this crisis, sweeping soldiers’ deaths under the rug — their deaths not made public, their families left wondering what happened.
Perhaps there is no greater symbol of our definitive loss in that interminable war than Fort Bragg itself. From this flagship base, the beating heart of the U.S. special-operations complex, the military apparatus behind the global War on Drugs deploys to the far corners of the world. Green Berets train security forces in countries like Colombia, El Salvador, and Honduras. Delta Force reportedly took part in the anti-cartel operations that killed Pablo Escobar and captured El Chapo Guzmán. Yet drive down Bragg Boulevard into the Bonnie Doone neighborhood of Fayetteville, and in between the storage facilities, mobile-home dealerships, and tattoo parlors, you will find roach motels full of addicts, indigent veterans camped out beneath bridges, and strung-out junkies hanging around boarded-up trap houses. The dismal tide of synthetic opioids and amphetamines has penetrated Fort Bragg’s high-security gates, permeated through to the lowliest privates’ barracks, and caused at least a dozen overdose deaths in just the last year. These dead soldiers, who far outnumber combat casualties, are clearer proof of the United States’ unequivocal defeat in its longest-running international military campaign than a white flag run up over the main parade field. As the old saying goes: The War on Drugs is over — drugs won.