By Ralphael Prepetit
There is a serious epidemic spreading across the country, and I think that it's about time to shed some much needed light on what can only be described as a tragic issue that is homegrown, and in dire need of correction. As many of you are aware the wars we have waged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other smaller countries in the middle east have lasted 8 1/2 years. In effect, the longest armed conflict in American history.
The 'war on terror' was a very unique war in so far as it was fought by a 100% volunteer armed services contingent. What this means is that over 99% of the American public had no visceral ties to the conflict. In addition, unlike say World War 1, and World War 2, we as a nation did not have to make any serious sacrifices and/or rationing requirements. The result of all of this is that we have a public that is disconnected from the soldiers that have fought for it's existence.
Here is the real issue...Everyday in these United States of America, Twenty-two (22) Iraq/Afghanistan veterans commit suicide. I'lll repeat. Every 24 hours, 22 war veterans commit suicide. That's about one suicide every hour (65 Minutes to be exact). That's basically a 'Newtown' massacre amount of death (26) everyday. In the years between 2004 and 2009 the rates of suicide doubled.
To put it yet another way, that's thirty (30) suicides per every 100,000 people in this country. This is an epidemic. Something needs to be done, this issue requires much more attention than it's been getting. Our soldiers deserve much better. This past Wednesday afternoon one of these veterans 34 year old SPC. Ivan Lopez not only killed himself, but he decided to take an additional three (3) lives with him at Fort Hood, Texas. The second mass shooting at that facility in 5 years. A recent study/survey performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, found that 55% of Iraq war veterans felt 'disconnected' from civilian society. 43% of those are suffering from some form of physical health problems. 30% are suffering from serious mental health issues. 51% of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans either know someone who has committed suicide, or someone who has thought about it.
We are talking about young people from their late teens to their mid thirties. Our soldiers have made the ultimate commitment to us as a nation, therefore it should go without saying that we owe them our full respect and commitment to look out for their collective welfare upon their return to civilian life. The backlog in terms of Veterans healthcare is abysmal. Soldiers are waiting upwards of a year or more to have their claims attended to, and health issues addressed. This situation cannot stand. As an Army veteran myself, I find this situation appalling. In many ways this is a slap in the face to people who in no way deserve it. Regardless of how you may personally feel about the legitimacy, or necessity of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, you cannot turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of our veterans.
I think that it's important to not only express our gratitude to our veterans, but to also demand action from our elected officials. Specifically in Congress. The issue of the welfare of our veterans should be every bit an election issue in 2014 & 2016 as any other. The United States is the greatest democracy in the world because of the risk and sacrifice of our veterans. It's our turn to give back.
Thanks For Reading.