Honor and Country

Is there still a war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Unless we have family or friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of us are carrying on with our lives as if everything is normal. We continue to shop, go to work, and follow our favorite sports teams.

Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan and Iraq, American soldiers are suffering from depression and committing suicide.

Military statistics claim 16 soldiers died in Afghanistan and Iraq in January 2009. What’s most disturbing is the suicide rate for military personnel in the same month. There were at least 24 confirmed suicides, according to Pentagon statistics released earlier this year.

Military personnel are alarmed that more soldiers died from their own hands than from enemy gunfire.

In 2008, the Army confirmed at least 128 soldiers committed suicide with an additional 15 suspected of committing suicide.

In an effort to prevent suicide and depression, the military has added training that will teach its leaders to be more active in recognizing suicidal tendencies and depression.

Unfortunately, this training will only serve troops during their military stints. What happens after these troops are discharged? Will they receive lifetime counseling and therapy for handling depression and the loss of their comrades? Will counseling be available for the soldiers who come home to find out their wives have been playing house with other men?

From personal experience, I can relate to the hardships facing a discharged war veteran. My father is a Vietnam combat veteran. He was drafted and sent to Southeast Asia for unknown reasons. Since coming back home from Vietnam, his life has never been the same.

For him, arriving home was worse than dealing with any VietCong snipers. He didn’t get the same hero treatment my grandfather received after serving in World War II. My father never received anything after surviving his combat tour. Instead of a parade or a few free drinks, fellow Americans spit in his face and called him a baby killer.

To this day he has put Vietnam behind him, but he has never forgotten how he was treated by other Americans.

He is no longer a carefree college student from the 60s. He is a former killer who still can’t explain why he was made to take the life of a yellow skinned stranger in the name of honor and country.

For veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq, they may experience similar hardships as my father and other combat veterans. Many returning veterans will be bitter while others arrive home missing the arms and legs they had at birth.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will learn that the real war starts after they get home as they try to adapt back into a life they used to live.