War is terrible. More often than not, it’s the wrong answer to a very important question.
Yet, war happens, whether we want it or not. And if it’s going to happen, we turn to our heroes in uniform to defend our lives, our home and our freedom.
America has a number of holidays where we honor those who serve us, yet it’s impossible for anyone who’s never served in battle to really understand the sacrifice we demand from those brave men and women in uniform.
Not even films known for their realistic portrayal of war, like “Platoon” or “Saving Private Ryan” can give us true insight of being there, not knowing if that day might indeed be our last.
Memorial Day is not just a day off from work and school. It’s a day to remember those soldiers who gave that ultimate sacrifice, stretching from our very beginnings in the Revolutionary War to the conflicts our country finds itself in today.
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 people who died ensuring the rest of us would enjoy what they never could again. Yet, that’s far from everyone.
More than 666,000 American soldiers have died serving their country over the course of 250 years. But there is another number that far too often gets overlooked: 1.5 million. That is the number of combatants injured in the war theater. And we simply don’t do enough to ensure each of these soldiers have everything they need to not only recover, but find their way to some kind of normalcy.
Since the turn of the century, 5,795 men and women lost their lives serving America. But the wounded are nearly 10 times that, just under 51,000.
While physical injuries are easy to see, what is far more invisible are the psychological traumas these soldiers endure, trauma they bring back home, and which are too regularly ignored by the Veterans Affairs.
A 2008 report from the Rand Corp. — a non-profit, non-partisan research organization —found that more than 18 percent of U.S. service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Nearly 20 percent experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment.
Sadly, only half of those veterans who need treatment will seek it out. Those who do, however, find that they get just “minimally adequate care.”
It’s not that the VA doesn’t want to help. It’s simply not equipped to do so. And with billions and billions earmarked for our defense program each year, nowhere near enough find its way to help these brave men and women once they take off the uniform in hopes of enjoying the American dream they fought so hard to protect.
The American Psychological Association, with a membership of more than 115,000 professionals, has urged Washington in recent months to provide more funding not only to treat these soldiers, but to research ways of preventing such problems in future conflicts.
This isn’t about just struggles to find life after military duty, it’s an actual struggle for life.
In 2014, an average of 20 soldiers committed suicide each day. That’s more than 7,400 in a single year — and far more than all actual combat deaths since 2001.
Our soldiers deserve better. And after everything they have done for our country, it’s the least our country can do for them.