The War on Terror these past ten years has come with a heavy toll. The men and women we send overseas to defend and protect our liberty and ensure our safety far too often do not have the same reciprocated. Many that come home after one, two, a half dozen tours have scars that pay testament to their sacrifice. A missing limb from an IED, a loss of sight from shrapnel, burn scars from incendiaries…these are the scars we can see and through out our history good and true Americans have seen these scars as badges of honor and respect the price that that service member had paid to defend the United States.
To all the war protesting hippies of Vietnam who would spit on returning soldiers let me make my view on you crystal clear…to quote Sen. James Webb when asked about his feelings about war protester and traitor Jane Fonda:
“I wouldn’t cross the street to watch her slit her own wrists”
Back to the troops. The scars on the outside are easy to see and tell the tale of the price liberty costs. But it is too rare that we, as a nation, recognize the scars on the psyche that many service members return from war have. This, tragically, has led to a ever increasing number of suicides among soldiers and marines returning from combat.
The failing here I place squarely on the Pentagon and the government as a whole for being too quick to dismiss the mental toll that continuous war has on an all volunteer military. During the draft era, you got drafted, served a set time and if you survived you went home. Not saying that it was easy but there was a beginning and an end.
Today we ask our military to continue to go back to the grinder time and time again. We impose rules of engagement that, for political sake, endanger the lives of our troops. The government talks about the military in the highest terms while they are fighting but too often dismisses them when they are out of uniform and suffering.
The demands that we have placed on our troops have grown exponentially and yet the resources, treatments and availability to service members who need help has not kept up with the times nor the need. And that, I say, is a crime.
Of course, instead of doing something productive about it, such as pouring more money into the treatment of PTSD or investigate better ways to deal with continual deployments in a country at a constant state of war (which the US is) they decide to figure out the best way to deal with suicides is strip service members of their personal firearms. Of course they can’t just confiscate them, but they are trying to find end arounds in order to do just that.
Yes. Nearly half of suicides of returning troops are performed using their personal firearms. But guess what, that means more than half are not. Instead of going about the band-aid step of figuring out how to seize firearms from servicemen we need to look into how to better treat the problem…the reasons they feel the need to end it all. Because once it gets to that point, that service member isn’t going to go: “I don’t have my gun so I guess I’m all better and I’m not going to kill myself now”. No, they will just find another way.
If we are serious as a country in respecting our wounded veterans then we need to do more in order to help them all. Yes, a trooper missing a limb is easier to recognize and treatments have long been developed, I mean, you don’t even need legs to be an Olympic Sprinter anymore.
But there is no prosthetic for a broken spirit. It is harder to see, tougher to treat, and the cost for success does not have the same visual reward as a man being able to walk again is, but that doesn’t make it any less vital.
It may not be sexy, stopping a suicide isn’t a photo op for a politician, the underlying problem isn’t a feel good story that politicians or even many regular Americans who have not served want to focus on.
Too damn bad. These men and women, with scars that run deep into those dark places of the mind, in the recesses of the abyss that is reserved for the horrors that one cannot fully come to terms with, who, if left out in the cold may ultimately turn to what they feel is their only option for release, NEED US as a country to take this problem seriously.
No politicizing, no agenda’s, just an honest effort to help those who have given so much for their country.
I’m not psychiatrist so I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that we are asking too much of too few for too long.
I know there are active military personnel who read my blog (It’s the only way I could possibly be this popular in Afghanistan and Iraq) and if there are any who may feel like they are heading to a dark place I say this;
There are people who understand what you are going through. There are people who understand the demons in the darkness when you close your eyes at night. And there are people who are willing to help. Seek them out. You have fought for this country with honor…please let those in this country try and help you in kind.