Letter: Give soldiers the chance to heal
U.S. military suicides have claimed more lives than combat-related deaths in Afghanistan. Last month marked the start of our 10th year there. It’s time to ask, why are we sending troubled soldiers back into combat?
The American Journal of Public Health this year published a study estimating that 20-50 percent of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). With our military over-stretched, many of those same troops are being sent back to war.
The New York Times, citing interviews with soldiers and health care workers, described the "warrior transition unit" at Fort Carson and similar posts as "warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of prescription pills and treated harshly by non-commissioned officers." We are sending troops into the battlefield with a gun in one hand and a handful of pills in the other.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that soldier suicides—not Afghanistan military strategy—is his top priority right now. That is a clear indication that there is something terribly wrong with how the military is supporting the mental health of our troops.
In response, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have announced Operation Recovery, a campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops. They are calling on the military and our government to stop re-deploying troops who already suffer from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Military Sexual Trauma (from rape by other military members). They are asking members of the public to defend their right to heal from war.
Please take a moment to call or write your representatives, the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.