Among the family, friends, students, colleagues, and others in my life who have served our country are both of my grandfathers: Daniel Warner (left, in a portrait in his Army uniform) and the late Clarkson S. Fisher (right, pictured in the U.S. Signal Corps. in New Guinea circa 1943). I’m thinking of them both today, trying to comprehend just how they and their fellows did what they did at such a young age with so much at stake. It’s stunning to consider really — the enormity of the situation, the horror of the violence, and the courage they showed in the face of it all. Even for a peacenik like me, it’s pretty impossible not to be moved by all that our servicemen and women have taken on for others.
I think those feelings of awe and gratitude are feelings that most everyone can relate to in one way or another. I suppose that’s what I just can’t seem to understand some of these facts:
- 2012 has seen more military personnel die by suicide than in combat – there is an average of around one military suicide a day.
- Veterans make up about 20% of the total number of U.S. suicides.
- One out of every five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, the U.S. government has noted PTSD as the leading cause of homelessness for veterans.
- “One-third of the adult homeless population are veterans. 70% of these suffer from substance abuse problems. 45% of these suffer from mental illness. There is an estimate 196,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. on any given night. Twice as many will experience homelessness at least once during the course of a year. 3-11% of homeless veterans are female. The current unemployment rate for veterans is 12%, versus that of the general population, which is 9.1%.”
- The Institute of Medicine has declared substance abuse among U.S. military personnel a public health crisis.
- Those who seek help for mental health issues often face tremendous obstacles.
How is this the reality for our veterans? Especially when we hold our troops in such high regard? It’s unacceptable. We have to do better by them. Until we do, any “celebration” of our servicemen and women will only be lip service, and Veterans Day will be a meaningless exercise.
If you want to get involved, here are some places you can start…