Army Warrant Officer Aaron Walsh, a decorated Apache helicopter pilot enjoyed playing slot machines in his spare time. Luckily, he didn’t have to go far because the army operates 3,000 slot machines on overseas posts to raise money. Unfortunately for Walsh and his family, he became addicted to those slot machines, losing more than $20,000, was forced to resign from the Army, found himself homeless on the streets of Las Vegas, and in the end killed himself with a shotgun to the head.
When I first read this story I was aghast. Sure, I knew about alcohol, drugs, sex and even eating addictions, but to hear of a decorated hero, with a family, who killed himself because of military sanctioned slot machines is absolutely heartbreaking.
A bill was introduced to Congress last week called the Warrant Officer Aaron Walsh Stop DOD-Sponsored Gambling Act and it would prohibit the military from operating slot machines on military bases.
The money, raised off the gambling of soldiers, is certainly not worth the risk. “If American men and women are willing to serve our country overseas we should not be dependent on them to pay for recreational activities they deserve,” said the sponsor of the bill, Representative Lincoln Davis.
Carrie Walsh saw firsthand how the gambling addiction ruined her husband’s life. After going AWOL and eventually being found on a base in Seoul in front of a slot machine, the Warrant Officer was kicked out of the military and living on the streets He returned to Maine in 2006 to reconnect with Carrie and their two small kids. Once again his gambling continued on until that ill fated day on September 26, 2006 when he headed to Maine’s Baxter State Park with a shotgun and took his life.
John Kindt, a University of Illinois business professor has studied gambling addictions and the military. He agrees that slot machines have no place on military bases and that there are better alternatives to gambling as a source of entertainment.
Undersecretary of Defense Leslye Arsht, earlier this year, said that gambling on bases provides, “…a controlled alternative to unmonitored host-nation gambling venues and offers a higher payment percentage making it more entertainment oriented than that found at typical casinos.”
If passed, the bill will make slot machines on military bases obsolete and soldiers looking for a fix will have to go off base to gamble in legitimate casinos.