A veteran kills themselves every 80 minutes in this country; that is 18 veterans a day. About half of veterans say they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, with three in four saying they suffer flashbacks and nightmares. I personally know guys I served with who fear going to sleep because the nightmares are that bad.
Veterans have an unemployment rate around 12 percent and are 50 percent more likely to become homeless than other Americans. Each night around 75,000 veterans are homeless according to the Veterans Administration.
We have been at war for over the past decade. Those freshmen that just arrived on campus were only in 3rd grade when our nation decided to go to war in Afghanistan; yet, during that time about one half of one percent of the nation has been on active military duty.
Think about that. One half of one percent of this nation that rightfully holds up veterans as our nation’s heroes has actually stood up themselves and answered the call.
So the results of a recent PEW Research Center poll of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars should come as no surprise. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed say "the public does not understand the problems faced by those in the military or their families." And really, how could they have any understanding?
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the first wars in this nation’s history that were largely fought by an all-volunteer force. There was no nationwide draft that people had to worry about. No one really had to cut back on their consumption; there was no rationing like in World War II. In fact, we were told to "go out shopping" after 9/11.
Unless they personally know someone who has served or is currently serving, they are for the most part removed from any involvement that this country has had in fighting the two longest wars of this nation’s history.
Talking with fellow veterans they largely reflect the statistics from the survey. The fact that people almost have to search for information on the deaths of those currently in Iraq and Afghanistan is also telling. The public for the most part does not care, otherwise that information wouldn’t be buried in newspapers or omitted from nightly news broadcasts. Most Americans can’t even guess within a thousand how many have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I do not want to sound like I am bashing the entire public. I have met a lot of people who were truly invested in the effort and took the time to make a difference and have received wonderful support from friends and family while deployed twice.
It is time to move beyond the bumper sticker patriotism and the symbolic appreciation shown at sporting events and do something as a nation that truly recognizes veterans’ achievements during the past decade.
6,320 US Casualities in Iraq and Afghanistan as of 15 Nov 2011.