Suicidal Veterans: The Ongoing Legacy of the American Wars

If Veteran Affairs can’t help people with physical visible diseases, then I don’t know what help can be expected by suicidal veterans. But the number of those who have contemplated suicide is alarming. They need help.

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

Nearly half of all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know at least one fellow US troop who has attempted suicide, and 40 percent know someone who has died by suicide, warns a survey released Thursday by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

The largest nongovernmental survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that much has improved in America’s care of its veterans, says Tom Tarantino, IAVA’s policy director. Yet there are plenty of challenges that remain – and notable gaps in data nationwide. For example, “We still don’t know how many veterans are alive in this country,” notes Mr. Tarantino, a former US Army captain.

The IAVA survey offers a window into the priorities of the veterans of America’s most recent wars. The survey exclusively sought out combat veterans, who were required to provide proof of their deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan – or both – in order to take the survey. 

The roughly 2,000 veterans who completed the questionnaire reported that their number one concern is “the crisis with suicide.” 

More than half of all respondents – 53 percent – say that they have a mental health injury, and nearly one third of all veterans said that they themselves have considered taking their own life since joining the military.

I don’t know what we can do to help these people, and even if I did, I have doubts that I could trust the government to do the right thing. But perhaps this is time for us to think about why our nation called on these men and women to pay such a high price.

Look at Afghanistan and Iraq now and tell me any of it was worth this.

And yet I turned on Fox News today and heard President Barack Obama criticized for not “making the case to the American people” for getting involved in the Ukraine… Of course the same thing will be said next week for Syria, Iraq (again!), Iran, or some other place.

If my choice is between a President who plays golf and a President who does his “job” of convincing the American people to risk wars overseas, I’ll take the lazy, unengaged, golf player.

I would completely understand using our military to stop drug cartels and human traffickers coming into our country from Mexico. That would be a real use of the military for national protection. But putting people in insane circumstances on the other side of the planet for some irrationally wide definition of “the national interest” should be considered a crime.

Our troops deserve better than that.