Suicides are on the rise among soldiers returning from combat. Read this story about one young man.
The article states that, "According to the Army, soldiers are killing themselves at the highest rate in nearly three decades, surpassing the civilian suicide rate for the first time since the Vietnam War." (Sacramento Bee, 6/11/09) Suicides that occur after discharge, like the soldier in this article, are not counted in that figure. "The Army has estimated that as many as one in eight soldiers returning from combat suffer from PTSD, which is caused by severe psychological trauma and can cause flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness, detachment and irritability, among other problems." (ibid) For comparison, one in eight is the same statistic quoted for women's chances of getting breast cancer. And many who work with veterans estimate much larger numbers, due to the length of time it takes for PTSD to show up, the amount of bureaucracy that puts barriers in the way to treatment, and many soldiers' shame at admitting to "weakness."
There are several reasons why I am philosophically opposed to war. People have told me that being opposed to war means I don't support my troops (or my country, but that's another post). But how is it supportive to assign someone to possible death; certain trauma; and, if they're lucky, years of recovery from PTSD or other mental health issues; if they're unlucky, suicide, homelessness, unemployment, and/or isolation? Taking care of our troops means taking care of the whole person, not just using them for our purposes and throwing them away. Have we learned nothing from Vietnam, Korea, WW II, or WWI?
These soldiers, they're our children, spouses, friends. We can do better. We must do better.