Helping Our Combat Veterans

By Paul E. Gable

The events at Ft. Hood yesterday only serve to highlight what a terrible job we are doing as a nation to help our veterans deal with the trauma of combat.

The killings at Ft. Hood will draw several days of headlines, many dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, then, be forgotten as the news cycle changes.

But the problem remains and the numbers are startling.

As of March 27, 1,892 veterans and service members have died by suicide this year. Now, I didn’t major in math, and I have to be honest, I think I skipped most of my 8 a.m. math classes in college.

Every day in our country, one active duty service member and 22 veterans take their own lives.

Seriously, even I know those numbers are horrendous and must be fixed.

It’s why I was pleased to see Democrat Sen. John Walsh of Montana introduce a bill last week aimed at reducing the number of veterans who commit suicide. The bill is called the Suicide Prevention for  America’s Veterans Act.

Walsh is the first Iraq war combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.

“Far too often, we’re leaving our veterans to fight their toughest battles alone. Returning home from combat does not erase what  happened there, and yet red tape and government dysfunction have  blocked access to the care that saves lives. It is our duty to come together for real solutions for our heroes,” Walsh told CNN in an  interview last week.

I have never been one in favor of the government getting involved, but I am doing an about face on this one.

We have an epidemic on our hands, and it is time to get it reigned in, even if that means the introduction of a bill such as this one.

The bill’s key objectives is to give veterans more time to receive mental health treatment, along with improving the quality of mental health care providers and the introduction of a pilot initiative that would allow a student to have their loans repaid if they work for the  VA.

At a time when our nation continues to feel the pain from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which are the longest continuous battles the U.S. has fought, this bill comes at the right time.

More than 2 million brave men and women served in those two wars, and  it is estimated as many as 300,000 troops meet the criteria for PTSD and anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 have suffered a traumatic brain  injury.

Consider this, after more than 12 years of war and multiple deployments, some of our families in America, and Shelby County, know absolutely nothing but war, both abroad and at home.

It’s a crying shame when we boast about having the greatest military in the world, yet, we provide the worst service for those who sacrifice life and limb to defend our freedoms.

Depression, anxiety, PTSD and Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are nothing to laugh about.

Gone are days of laughing at an older individual who jumps when a car backfires or mumbles to himself.

It’s not fun.

It’s darn tragic.

We continue to fund “pork projects” back home and learn that earmarks will never die in Congress, when it is said to take only $1.2 million over a 24-month period to expand tracking capabilities to include  active duty family members.

Yes, $1.2 million to better understand military suicides.

If we can find tax payer money for idiotic projects like exhibits at the St. Louis Art Museum Foundation, wireless networks for a city in Alabama with a population of just under 14,000 residents, wood utilization research, brown tree snake control, and potato research, all of which have happened under this administration, surely we can  find the money to treat our soldiers correctly when they return home.

I applaud the good Senator from Montana for introducing the bill.

It’s a start, but unfortunately, more soldiers will take their lives before we, as a nation, get serious about addressing the issue.

Paul E. Gable is the editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Gable on  Twitter @PaulGableTSN.

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