The Untold Death Toll of War: Suicide

Over the last two years, suicide has caused more deaths in the United States military than actual combat operations, according to a recently released study.  The scary part is that the Department of Defense only tracks suicides that happen by veterans that participate in the VA health care system.  There could potentially be more than they actually are tabulating in their data.  The real question here is what is at the heart of the matter.  Those of us that are fortunate enough to have never had to be in a wartime situation could never hope to understand the stress that these soldiers have endured over the last decade.  But is the government doing enough for our soldiers when they do get to come home?  Is there a way to measure who might be at risk and make sure they have the help they need?  Or is it the United States people that are at fault for not giving our troops the respect they deserve when they make their return?

Let’s face the facts.  The wars that are troops have been involved in are some of the most unpopular of all time.  There are no parades when troops come home, and it very rarely makes the news at all.  With President Obama and the military preparing for a mass withdrawal this month, there will be a whole new population of veterans coming home that may be at risk to suffer the same fate.  Now is the time for something to be done, or as the years pass by, we may find ourselves watching more and more of what should have been heroes taking their own lives.

There are many of those among us that normally regard suicide as a cowardly act.  We view people that take their own life as people that were not strong enough to overcome their emotions and deal with the ups and downs of life.  We blame it on all sorts of things, from whether their parents raised them right to whether they have religion in their life to the economic situation in our country that has put so many people in difficult life situations.  The idea of veterans committing suicide challenges our views on this and forces us to look beyond the surface and stop writing this off as people that just can’t “get it together.”  I don’t think there’s very many Americans that would accuse any of these soldiers of being cowards, so we must call for a better support system, not just from the government and the military, but from us, the people that these brave souls are putting their lives on the line to defend.  We can all sit around and debate whether the wars were necessary or warranted, but we should never allow our support for those in the middle of the action to wane.

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