A recent article in The New York Times stated that for every soldier killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, 25 more will commit suicide. Let that sink in for a moment, 25 deaths on American soil, none of which have anything to do with terrorists, extremists or the enemy. Being a veteran between the ages of 18 and 24 only quadruples the risk of suicide. All the usual suspects can be linked to this tragedy, post-traumatic stress disorder, head injuries and mental health issues.
So what are we going to do about this problem? Veteran Affairs has set up a suicide hotline and appointed suicide-prevention coordinators. But in a culture that sees feelings as a sign of weakness, and has “coordinators” like this is a battle plan that has to be executed in a series of steps; progress isn’t being made. With such loopholes as drug overdoses being ruled as “accidental,” the number of suicides Veteran Affairs is recording could be artificially low. This problem could be even worse, but it’s pretty bad already.
I’m not going to lie and say I know anything about suicide prevention, or what a soldier goes through. I watch Army Wives, but let’s face it, TV doesn’t do a thing to show us what each American soldier regularly goes through. We all know going into the Armed Forces, whichever branch you may choose, is a hard decision, and a difficult road to take. Sacrifices are made, tears will be shed and it takes a strong will to be able to follow that path. After 9/11, a lot more people found that type of strength inside of them and took up arms to defend us. Over 10 years later, the enemy is living inside those who have been so brave, and sacrificed more in a three-year tour of duty than we have in our entire lives. Something needs to be done, this problem is not going away. Awareness is the first step. Hug a soldier today, ask the tough questions, and in the upcoming elections, look into who provides the most support to veterans. Michelle Obama was recently on The Colbert Report advocating for her foundation Joining Forces, which is dedicated to helping the families of soldiers whose lives are greatly affected by the demands the military places on them. But this is not enough. We are all aware that suicide is never the right answer.
How can we continue to let our own neglect take more lives than the enemy?