"War is Hell"

Recently, while out shopping, I noticed a veteran on the side of the road.  As he navigated his wheelchair down the sidewalk with both legs missing from the knees down, he was holding up a sign asking for help.  I could not help but be moved by his dilemma.  While at the light, I looked through my purse and managed to find $10.  "Not a lot," I thought, but honestly, since the birth of debit cards, I rarely have actual cash on hand!!

What struck me most, though, was the fact that our men and women can serve our country and end up disabled and begging for help.  This does not make sense.  So I did what I love to do ... research.  According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, homeless veterans make up 23% of the homeless population and 33% of the male homeless population.  Currently, we are losing 18 veterans a day to suicide, putting this group at an all time high.

Interestingly, there is a dispute over the true extent of the problem.  According to CBS, the Veterans Administration did not initially fully acknowledge the issue.  They went on to say it was not until investigative reporting, lawsuits, and hearings that they finally admitted this reality.  However, some have stated that CBS exaggerated the numbers ... and so begins the argument.  If interested, you might want to check out the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs website.

Regardless of who is right and wrong, the point is, veterans are begging on the streets and dying by suicide.  Why is this happening?  Stanley Krippner, a professor of psychology, has studied the effects of war on veterans for over 50 years.  He puts it simply, "War is hell.  You don't descend into hell and come out of it the same as you went into it."  The effects are devastating.  A term once known as "shellshock," our veterans are suffering from PTSD.

When we face danger, our bodies activate our "fight or flight" response, a normal process for survival.  Once the danger is over, we return to homeostasis.  However, when a person is in constant fight or flight mode, as in combat, their ability to return to a normal state is impaired.  Eventually, what was once a source of protection for someone becomes their own worst enemy.  They can no longer rely on their own instincts and survival mechanisms for guidance.  This leaves them vulnerable and lost.  Our men and women are suffering from anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, and other issues.  Drugs and/or alcohol become a way of coping.  This only masks the underlying issue, ultimately exasperating the problem, and their ability to cope becomes stretched beyond its limits.  Without professional help, many ultimately turn to suicide.

We can argue back and forth, trying to decide just how bad the problem is but again ... does it really matter?  Our veterans are going to war, coming home broken, and they need our help!!  We need to stop blaming and start fixing.  It will take sacrifice on our part but it seems to me it is only fair.  After all, they sacrificed so much for us.  This Veterans Day, please remember our vets!

To learn more about ways to help, check out the "Disabled American Veterans" organization listed on the resources page of this blog.

Photo taken from www.photoxpress.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your post, thank you for making us aware of this dilema.