The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

May 29, 2008

Nation should honor its pledge to veterans

This week is certainly a timely one to reflect on this nation’s debt to its veterans — whom most people at least casually support by nodding their heads when politicians exhort them to “support the troops.”

Monday was, of course, Memorial Day — one of the prime moments every year to physically honor the fallen and those who have served the U.S. in the military services, with a particular focus on war veterans and those who have been killed and wounded fighting our wars and for respecting these fallen heroes’ children and widows and other family members.

A study released this week by the U.S. Army Surgeon General’s office reports new cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan soared by at least 50 percent in 2007. The report also states there are at least 40,000 new cases of PTSD among U.S. veterans over the past five years (roughly the length of time the U.S. has been at war in Iraq).

Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army Surgeon General, said the Army alone reported 10,000 new cases of PTSD in just the year 2007. Schoomaker mitigated the sensation of his report by stating the higher statistics partially reflect greater awareness of and better tracking of PTSD, both positive points. However, Schoomaker acknowledged the new cases statistics are most likely understated because of perceived stigma U.S. servicemembers generally attach to seeking mental health treatment, a stigma which causes veterans stricken with PTSD not to seek mental help even though they desperately need it. Also, the report released this week does not include veterans who seek mental health treatment through private insurance coverage and through the private medical sector — both entities which seal patients’ personal medical records.

The same report revealed 115 Army soldiers took their own lives in 2007, the highest total since the first Gulf War, and an increase of 13 over the 102 Army suicides in 2006. Many of these suicides are at least partially or mostly attributable to PTSD caused by service in the Global War on Terror.

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