We all have the upmost respect for those who serve in our armed forces and for those who serve overseas in harm’s way. They deserve special respect and benefits since they are the only ones who stand between us and those who wish to do us harm. Now with Veterans Day now past, we have another unique opportunity to act and put our words into action.
We possibly have three times as many service personnel and support people out of the country the last few years. From 200,000 deployed for almost eight years from in the 1990’s and early 2000’s s to maybe up to 600,000. But judging from recent pronouncements by the President and the mood of the country there seems to be a new development. They are coming home. A reverse surge if you will. That I think most would also agree is the good news. But to really honor our service people who have survived and sacrificed, we are the ones that now need to do them a service. We need to help them with the many problems that have been plaguing our veterans on their return.
Unemployment for veterans is at least two percent higher than for nonveterans. Twenty percent of returning veterans have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and PTSD raises the risk of domestic abuse. Prescription drug abuse has soared and suicide deaths have outnumbered combat deaths in the last two years. And 10 percent of our state prison population and a total prison estimate of 140,000 people in 2004 reported prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. On any given night there are 131,000 veteran who are homeless. Even one-third of children who have parent deployed in a war zone are at higher risk for psychological problems and a new study says violence more common among kids of combat veterans. And that includes the daughters. But it’s the youngest soldiers that pay the heaviest price. Nearly one-third of the U.S. troop deaths in Iraq were those aged 18 to 21. Young male veterans aged 18 to 24 who served during Gulf War era II had an unemployment rate of 21.9 percent in 2010.
It seems clear that not one group or institution could handle these problems all by themselves. We are now all going to have to pitch in to make sure they all have a soft landing. I cannot think of any many adjustments bigger than coming from an environment where there is violence to one where there isn’t. We can never know what they went through and I’m sure they don’t want us to go through it and find out. And those of us in the Southern States may have even a bigger burden of helping veterans since the tradition of military service in the South has continued since 2001. In my home state of Kentucky we alone might have upward to over 10,000 service people deployed.
Even if you are vehemently against the wars or the rules of engagement do not automatic assume that those prerogatives are included in a soldiers job description once they has enlisted, taken an oath and received compensation. They often have to wait for the ballot box like the rest of us. If there are failed policies, militaries are quite often victims of them too and sometimes take the brunt of the consequences.
If we want America and its forces to continue to be strong, and we want America to continue to become more peaceful, then I think it is time for all of us to do our service personnel a service and now give then the special attention and consideration they deserve in areas big and small. Not only for those at the tip of the spear of our armed forces but also for those who make up the body of the spear too for all those who serve, sacrifice. Bigger institutions must do their part but the rest of us can too. I believe this begins with kindness. It could be a smile, letting them cut in line or buying their coffee. Even our fiercest warriors are still quite human off duty which means that a little bit of kindness goes a long way. No matter what challenges they face on their return, kindness is a big step in the right direction. This goes not only for the ones who will be returning but the ones who already have and there are 22 million veterans in the U.S.. This would make every day we are in contact with veterans another Veteran’s Day. This would not elevate them above the rest of us but only insure that they can enjoy a normal life, like the rest of us. This is probably the biggest gift we can give them, that despite their sacrifice they are still an equal member of the American family and the American dream.
Douglas A. Wain is Founder and Executive Director of Win The War! Against Violence a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to violence prevention though education.
Special Report: Deployment of U.S. troops. U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement that he's sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, it's important to note that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is only a small portion of the total number deployed abroad. There are 516,273 U.S. military service members in approximately 150 foreign countries. These numbers include troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan along with permanently stationed troops in places such as Germany, Italy and Japan. Iraq has the largest U.S. military presence with 171,000 troops, though this will decrease over the next few years. United Press International (UPI), December 2, 2009.
Contractors outnumber troops in Iraq. More than 180,000 civilians -- including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis -- are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times. But there are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials. T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, July 04, 2007.
Obama: Iraq war will be over by year's end; troops coming home. President Barack Obama on Friday announced that virtually all U.S. troops will come home from Iraq by the end of the year -- at which point he can declare an end to America's long and costly war in that Middle Eastern nation. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said. "The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays." CNN Wire Staff, October 21, 2011.
Jobless rate climbs for young veterans. The U.S. economy created 103,000 jobs in September — but not, apparently, for veterans. Although the national unemployment rate remains fixed at 9.1 percent, the jobless rate climbed for veterans, especially young veterans, according to the Labor Department’s unemployment report, which was released Friday. For veterans separated from the service since Sept. 11, 2001, the jobless rate for September was 11.7 percent, a jump from 9.8 percent in August, according to the report. Rick Maze, Staff writer, Oct 7, 2011.
More post-traumatic stress help for vets. A study last year by the RAND Corp. think tank estimated that nearly 20 percent of returning veterans, or 300,000, have symptoms of PTSD or major depression. Julie Pace Associated Press Writer, July 10, 2010. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/07/11/obama_more_post_traumatic_stress_help_for_vets/
Domestic Violence on Increase for War Veterans .Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans has raised the risk of domestic violence in the homes of veterans, affecting their families and children. Domestic violence in the homes of veterans is a growing problem, creating victims of the spouse, intimate partner, family and the children of the veteran who returns home with PTSD. Christine Bude Nyholm, Yahoo! Contributor Network, February 19, 2009. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1470831/domestic_violence_on_increase_for_war.html
Abuse of pain pills by soldiers concerns Pentagon. The military is trying to curb the volume of narcotics given to troops as the number of prescriptions for painkillers and instances of drug abuse continue to soar, according to Pentagon data and recent congressional testimony. Gregg Zoroya, USA Today, March 16, 2010.
More troops lost to suicide. For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Donnelly, www.congress.org a publication of CQ-Roll Call Group, January 24, 2011.
Leave No Veteran Behind. U.S. Veterans in Prison: Facts and Figures.10 percent of state prisoners reported prior service in the U.S. armed forces down from 12 percent in 1997 and 20 percent from 1986. A 2004 Survey. Overall there was an estimated 140,000 veterans among the American prison population in 2004. An estimated 62 percent had received an honorable discharge. 99 percent were male. By The Howard League for Penal Reform, 2010.
Homeless Veterans. Background. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimated that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities or rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country. National Coalition for the Homeless, September 2009.
Experts: Parents' deployment puts kids at high risk for problems. A third of military children surveyed who have a parent deployed in a war zone are at "high risk" for psychological problems, according to a new study by military doctors and researchers. Adam Levine CNN Pentagon Supervising Producer, September 2, 2009.
Violence more common among kids of combat veterans. A new study suggests that when parents are deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights. And that includes the daughters."This study raises serious concerns about an under-recognized consequence of war," said Sarah Reed, who led the research of military families in Washington state. Last year, nearly 2 million U.S. children had at least one parent serving in the military. Deployment can hurt a family in a variety of ways. There's stress while that parent is overseas and in danger, as the remaining parent has to shoulder all responsibilities and family roles shift. There can also be challenges after deployed parents' return, especially if they were physically or psychologically damaged. Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, October 31, 2011.
In Iraq, youngest US troops bore the heaviest toll. Nearly one-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were age 18 to 21. Well over half were in the lowest enlisted ranks. Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer, August 20, 2011.
Employment Situation of Veterans Summary. Highlights from the 2010 data. Young male veterans (those ages 18 to 24) who served during Gulf War era II had an unemployment rate of 21.9 percent in 2010, not statistically different from the jobless rate of young male nonveterans (19.7 percent). Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation of Veterans Summary, USDL-11-0306, March 11, 2011.
Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11. The Southern Military Tradition. The South is overrepresented among military recruits. It provided 42.2 percent of 1999 recruits and 41.0 percent of 2003 recruits but contained just 35.6 percent of the population ages 18-24. In addition to confirming the strong Southern military tradition, we also found an exceptional tendency for lower than average military participation in New England. Tim Kane, Ph.D. November 7, 2005.
Employment Situation of Veterans Summary. The Veteran Population. In 2010, 20.2 million men and 1.8 million women in the civilian non-institutional population ages 18 and over were veterans. In the CPS, veterans are defined as men and women who have previously served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and who were civilians at the time they were surveyed. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL-11-0306, March 11, 2011.