Today is a good day to honor our past and present warriors and thank them for their service. But it should also be a time to recommit to caring for those warriors, some of whom returned home with debilitating physical injuries. Others have PTSD or ongoing emotional damage that they continue to battle daily.
According to a Department of Veterans Affairs study, 20 veterans a day commit suicide and 13 to 20 percent of the 2.6 million veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, or some other mental disorder. The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found that 30 percent of soldiers from that war have had PTSD at some point since their return.
Flags fly near the Lucas County Courthouse on Veterans Day in 2016.
The readjustment problems upon returning home were captured in the current film Thank You for Your Service. The film is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by journalist David Finkel. Several of the soldiers featured in the film struggled after their return to Kansas from their deployment to Iraq in 2007. Army Staff Sgt. Adam Schumann, who was one of them, said: “There were days I didn’t think I was going to see tomorrow, where it was just so terrible, and the odds seemed stacked against me.”
His feelings are shared by thousands of veterans, many of whom reject help because they do not want to be seen as weak or mentally soft, especially to themselves.
President Trump has made a commitment to cleaning up the dysfunction at the Veterans Administration. Secretary David Shulkin has made many positive changes. He has focused on reducing wait times for veterans to receive services and creating same-day appointments at clinics. Huge digital monitors are now strung together inside the department’s Washington headquarters, highlighting urgent problems at various hospitals across the country. It is a level of attention that is a step in the right direction.
This day was originally called Armistice Day to mark the end of fighting in World War I, it was changed by Congress in 1954 to Veterans Day to honor all veterans. Let us truly honor the service of our soldiers by taking care of them — by caring for their physical and mental wounds.
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