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CDR Salamander is right, and Burkett's book is spot on here. Yes, like any large populations, the military has people with problems or bad choices or failed lives--but that should not, must not, define us like it unfairly did for the Vietnam vets. Suicide is worth preventing, but perhaps the policy prescription isn't the right one...
Rozelle has been a public face in the crusade to allow severely wounded servicemembers to continue their military service. He has called for cutting-edge medical treatment and rehabilitation, as well as policy changes.
“I helped change the model of how we take care of our veterans,” Rozelle said. “At one time, we'd patch them up … get the infection under control … send them to the VA and send them back home and let Mama take care of them, and, you know, that was a great model back in the 70s, but it doesn't fit our population.”
The average age of today’s military amputees is 35, Rozelle explained. Another statistic he likes to mention is the suicide rate among amputees from operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom: zero.
“Out of 701 amputees, all 701 are still alive today, and we're very proud of that,” Rozelle said.
A week earlier, Scott Smiley had been a lieutenant in charge of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team platoon in Mosul, Iraq. He'd graduated from West Point, made it through Ranger school and hoped to serve in special operations.
Yet in April 2005, he was barely conscious - the victim of a suicide car bombing that sent shrapnel into his brain, leaving him temporarily paralyzed and permanently blind.
Within days of Smiley's arrival at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, a civilian social worker encouraged his wife to fill out forms to medically retire him.
"Instantly, this thing inside me was like 'No, this isn't right,'" Tiffany Smiley, now 25, recalled. "It was just this gut feeling."
Through weeks and months to come, as Scott Smiley's body healed, as he learned how to walk with a cane and read Braille, he and his wife were told by doctors and therapists in Washington; Tacoma, Wash., and Palo Alto, Calif.: Your Army career is over.
Smiley - earnest, outgoing, quick to poke fun at himself, devoutly religious - has proved them wrong.
Taking advantage of the Army's new willingness to consider allowing seriously injured soldiers to stay in uniform, and with the backing of superiors all the way up to a three-star general, Smiley has settled into a job at Fort Monroe's Training and Doctrine Command.
I agree. And one of those taboos is to say, with a kind and friendly tone, "No, facts are more important than emotion."
Though there are very real individual cases, as a whole we need to stop making it sound as if everyone who is a veteran is walking around in need of meds in order to keep from killing themselves, killing others, getting drunk, taking drugs, or winding up on the street. Those who serve/served do kill themselves, kill others, get drunk, take drugs and wind up on the street. They also are pedophiles, rapists, fisherman, farmers, business men, pastors, doctors, lawyers, and Indian Chiefs. We also should feel that it is OK not to associate being a veteran with societal ills that are shared, in roughly equal percentages, among the general population.
Yes, there is a lot of back and fourth about the mental health issues WRT veterans. The reason is that people are starting to push back. Pushing back because they don't want to end up like previous generations of veterans who the general population thought, wrongly, were damaged goods. The facts say otherwise.
If people have not already, they need to read B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley's book Stolen Valor. Yes, it is about the Vietnam War generation, but the lessons apply here as well.
We all have specific examples, but we should be careful not to take the specific and apply it to the general. WRT the suicide issue itself, the best write-up I have read in awhile specific to The Long War is by Michael Fumento from this NOV in The New York Post. He is a former paratrooper who has been embedded as a reporter three times in Iraq and once in Afghanistan, and has the numbers to back things up and put the problem in perspective. In response to the CBS smear job on Veteran suicides,
Last month, the Army released a report finding that the suicide rate among these GIs in 2006 was 17.3 per 100,000 troops - rather lower than CBS's rate for veterans. Why would soldiers who were recently on active duty be killing themselves at a much higher rate than those still serving?
More important still, the Army study corrected for some key demographic facts - notably, that the military is largely male and that men are much likelier to commit suicide than women are. Among civilians who match the overall age, gender and race profile of the U.S. Army, the suicide rate was 19 per 100,000 - higher than for the troops.
Another problem shows up when you look at the repeated studies of the 700,000 or so vets of first Gulf War - which have found no increased suicide rate. The same is true of a massive 2004 study of Vietnam vets.... a powerful implication of the CBS presentation - namely, that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a major cause of these suicides. (That's what those interviews with the wives helped show.)
Now, PTSD is quite real; I suffered it after my trial by fire in two fights and the wrong end of a nasty ambush in Ramadi, Iraq, all within two days. But multiple research groups have found that PTSD is way down the list of factors that drive both veteran and active-duty suicides.
In fact, a huge VA study of more than 800,000 subjects (released just weeks ago) compared suicide rates of depressed veterans with or without a PTSD diagnosis. It found a suicide rate of 68.16 per 100,000 person years for those with PTSD versus a rate of 90.66 for those without PTSD. (The researchers theorized that this was because PTSD sufferers are likelier to get treatment, including psychotherapy.)
As for long-term effects of experiencing combat, a 1998 study of Vietnam vets concluded: "The traumatic experience of combat makes only a small contribution to the report of current physical health problems."
Ultimately, there's no credible evidence of any increased suicide rate for vets or evidence that PTSD is anything but a minor factor in the suicides that do occur. (And if you don't believe that, CBS has some documents on President Bush's National Guard service they'd like to sell you . . . )
Of course, suicide is always a tragedy; whatever the rate among veterans, it would be good to reduce it. But success will require an agenda that puts the well-being of these heroes above crass media sensationalism and political causes.
Soldier Mom, I appreciate your concern and it may derive from personal experience - but I can't join in with you on this. There are enough people out there that want to paint us all as "troubled." I don't want to feed that mythology.All done!
The Veterans Health Administration estimates there are about 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care through VHA, and as many as 5,000 suicides per year among all living veterans. It matters little whether the numbers bantied about in the media on Veteran or military suicides are right or wrong or twisted or spun, because we all know someone... or all have heard of someone... a veteran... with problems that may or may not have anything to do with their war experiences... young men and old men with depression... a relationship that has failed... debt and other financial problems... unemployment... isolation... health problems... a combination of all of these... perhaps you witness the warning signs... or perhaps you've seen excessive drinking and other forms of self-medicating trying to ease the distress but which solved nothing... there are those veterans who live on the edge of the abyss of a permanent solution to a temporary situation -- no longer able to see the larger picture.
We have come a long way in being able to discuss the dark side of our minds: stress (post-traumatic or otherwise), biploar disorders, insomnia, depression, anxiety... the list is lengthy. And while suicide is a topic that has only been whispered about in hushed and shameful tones, the biggest myth has always been that we should not talk about it... a taboo... forbidden.
The VA -- recognizing that Veterans are a special risk group and seeking to reverse the trend of rising rates -- earlier this year launched enhanced suicide prevention measures as part of a joint venture between the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hotline and it now has an immediate prompt that says, "if you are a U.S. military veteran, please press 1 now." The call is then routed to New York where a staff of specially trained counselors are available to immediately help veterans through the crisis... who have special knowledge of what a veteran goes through.
And it's not just talking to the veteran until he or she no longer feels suicidal that day: the veteran is immediately entered into the VA Medical system (if they weren't there already) and cross references their location to find them the closest facility to get them immediate help.
At the VA medical center nearest our home, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator relates a story of receiving a call from a young Veteran in a neighboring state who returned from Iraq and was beset by a series of personal problems and losses. Through the new information system, they arranged for the young man to receive emergency care through his local community hospital and later was transferred to the VA Hospital in Phoenix. When the Coordinator visited the veteran, he told her that he honestly had every intention of killing himself that night; she knew that he'd be dead if not for the intervention and care he received with one phone call.
It is estimated that this program has already saved nearly 100 Veterans. It would be worthwhile if it saved only ONE.
More people die every year by suicide than HIV or murder. People need to take notice. It's the only way we can make this change. So let us now talk openly and candidly about suicide... and its prevention.
Please help spread the word! HERE are buttons & banners and the codes for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On my blog, I added a tag line below the button that says, "Veterans, press "1".
Help Save a Life. Help Save a Veteran's Life. Maybe more than one.
x-posted at Some Soldier's MomAll done!