The US still loses about 1 veteran to suicide every 75 minutes.
One of the worst failures of the US, militarily was the 20 years spent in Vietnam. We lost 58,000 uniformed personnel in that 'theater of war'. Deaths contributed to a war effort are the primary way that Washington politicians 'count the cost'.
But the nation is eerily silent about the deadlier 'war' that these veterans continue to fall victim to... suicide. Between 2008 -2017, at least 60,000 veteran deaths were reported. Many were formally diagnosed with the catch-all diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It has wide-ranging symptoms and a vast spectrum of impairments.
Survival on the battlefield is dependent on vigilance and circumspect diligence. Getting your head in the battle and focusing on all the dangers.
But for many, getting the battle out of your head may never ever happen. the US has perhaps the best trained military in world history. As a result we usually have the tactical edge. But perhaps we're finding a sad consequence in what we train and expose?
The Veterans Administration is tasked with caring for the lingering medical needs of our former military personnel. Their resources are very limited and the rationing of care is obvious to any family who's forced to seek help from them. It is a form of socialized medicine which no longer sees the patient as a customer; but rather.. a problem.
Often the medical treatment is applied so as to mute the symptom rather than to permanently rid the patient of the condition. For those with PTSD and the severe stress & anxiety, Benzodiazepine tranquilizers are the standard fare. It numbs the senses enough for govt. doctors to claim success in alleviating a panic attack, but the veteran is in a constant state of lethargy that employment is no longer a possibility... and neither is much of their family life and personal capacity to enjoy anything. And we haven't even talked about the addiction problems of 'bennies'. Yes, that's the street term for this abused drug.
In many military circles, mental health issues are regarded as personal weaknesses. One's 'manhood' is impugned among peers when others find out that you're 'losing it'. Even in the last presidential election, Donald Trump acknowledged the crisis, but referred to the person as having 'a weak mind'.
A veteran suffering this mental abuse can develop many impairments that destroy the ability to have full family relationships. Children suffer the loss of parental connections, spouses are left alienated and sometimes abandoned. Businesses suffer and collapse. Employment gets terminated. Communities lose some of their best citizens. Other addictions can take over. Alcoholism and other drug addictions can take over these lives. Crime increases and the mentally ill veteran is more likely the vulnerable victim than the criminal, but both scenarios are very likely.
Last year we featured Sailor Cody Barlow & his illness.
The hidden cost of war
* I'll use the term 'soldier' genetically for reference to any uniformed military personnel. It could be a sailor, marine, airman, or coast guardsman.
Let's discuss the cost of war in broader context. Many will remember the science fiction movie series that started with "The Bourne Identity". Matt Damon plays the character of a fully dedicated young soldier who became a brainwashed killing machine for covert & often illegal war crimes. The training program was (in the narrow sense) successful. But it created a terminal condition. There was no way to 'untrain' the person and return them to civilian life.
Some are wondering if a subtle form of this is happening with those who are extensively trained & sent on multiple tours and subjected to much longer immersions in the theater of battle. Researchers are now confirming a link between the consumption of 'energy drinks' and PTSD. It seems the impact of traumatic conditions is heightened when caffeine consumption & other central nervous stimulants are in the soldier's* body.