Saturday, November 21, 2009

The War at Home

We hear so much talk about the growing bureaucracy and the development of new agencies, even when there is recognized overlap of function between so many. We hear about the budget strains and how much we spend to bailout corporate America, how much we spend in foreign aid and reconstruction. what it boils down to is, that the United States spends a lot of money, especially when it comes to defense, especially when it comes to war...

There is a large pool of very important people that are, in a big way, forgotten about. Those that are out in the world fighting with the USA brand on their arm and others that solemnly come home to us in flag draped caskets, these are the ones not forgotten, these are the soldiers we think of everyday, the ones that are plastered all over out television and computer screens. What about the soldiers that come home from these wars, the willing and able that have made it through the battles? The individuals with families and homes and worries just as ours that more often than not have a heavier burden to bare that goes unseen. This is the burden that causes them to jump at the sound of a pen dropping to the floor, to go into panic at the sound of fire works bursting in air, that cringe and succumb to the flow of nightmares during a gun salute. 1 in 5 soldiers returning from their first deployment will return home with some form of combat stress or PTSD that often goes unnoticed in their mental screening when preparing to come home.

The Veterans Mental Health Act was signed into law a year ago this past October. Still, it is outrageous the barriers that veterans still are facing to be able to have access to the treatment they need. They include the horrible time delays, months and years sometimes, to getting approved for the treatment, the travel problems in getting to an offering facility and the fact that many times some opportunities are not widely promoted. This is all for those that actually attempt to seek help as many are too concerned about the added stress of dealing with the VA or the stigma that plagues our soldiers, making them think it will damage their record making them appear weak or crazy. The combat stress including anything from violent outbursts to the increasing attempts and successful acts of suicide. This year has already topped the charts for the number of confirmed stress related suicides among US soldiers. Furthermore the increasing time delays of treatment have contributed to PTSD plaguing some 15-40% more individuals for the rest of their lives. Something more needs to be done.

As the current administration deliberates on new troop requests the very well being of our soldiers also needs to be taken into account. With every additional deployment the likelihood of extensive stress disorders increases, in some accounts by almost 60%. So as many debate the number of troops to send don't forget about the fact that our volunteer military is in short supply at the moment, and with every increase more and more soldiers are deployed on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th times and it goes on. In one account dealing with the highly reported resignation of Matthew Hoh he remarks that he was "strongly motivated by the mental anguish he had experience since returning home". In this new warfare there is no down time. Improvised bombs and massive amounts of suicide bombers allow no time to let down ones guard, always aware, always suspicious.

If the US finds that is is necessary, as it very well seems, to send in more troops to Afghanistan and sustained Iraq, there needs to be a grand amount of attention paid and money invested in the aid for these troops once they return. The efforts made thus far are no where near enough; Not so long as year after year the suicide rate continues to rise. Not so long as soldiers recollect the inhumanities of war in their own homes night after night, as a senior strategist for the pentagon, Maginnis states "we, as humans, have a tough time sometimes dealing with out inhumanity towards other men". Soldiers spend their 12 month deployments being shot at or thinking about being shot at, and coming home, more often than not, is not enough on its own to treat 12 months worth of training, especially not when they know they are to but return once again to that place.

So as veterans day came and went everyone hailed those that are fighting and have fought but many left it at that. The reality is that government, and even the private sector needs to build up its arsenal for keeping these volunteers, mind you, safe from themselves. The aid needs to be more timely and more adequate. Veterans do what they can for each other but they should'nt be the only ones. If we cant help to provide for the very men and woman we are sending overseas, what kind of outlook does that give for our ability to help and be responsible for those that we are "liberating"? What does that say when we can't provide for the mental stability for those that have sworn to protect us? Don't forget about our men and woman that are out there getting their hands dirty...

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