If You Really LOVE The Troops – LOVE Them AFTER The Fight Too

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while living in North America it’s that Americans and Canadians purport to be EXTREMELY thankful to all the members of our armed services, who fight to keep us safe and secure every single day. We shake their hands in the streets, we thank them as we get on and off airplanes and our children salute them whenever we pass a solider in his uniform. Our politicians make DAMN-SURE to NEVER say a disparaging word about our soldiers, and always keep them in the highest regards in their speeches and campaigns. Yet, once they come home, physically and mentally wounded and in need of essential services to assist them with trying to lead a balanced and sane life, that LOVE is simply NOT as apparent as it once was when they were fighting.

Recently, here in Canada, our problem with underfunding our soldiers was put on blast by numerous media outlets, leading to tough questions, that resulted in a clear answer: Provide more HELP. The Toronto Star reports:

“The federal government is promising more psychiatrists and psychologists to help thousands of Canadian soldiers cope with the mental trauma of serving in Afghanistan. And Defence Minister Peter MacKay says both the military and government need to do more to deal with the “magnitude of mental health conditions.” The defence department will boost spending on mental health services by $11.4 million this year to provide more assistance to the more than 5,000 soldiers suffering the hidden mental wounds of their time in Afghanistan.

Though Canada ended its combat mission in southern Afghanistan in 2011, the nine-year mission has left a legacy of mental-health challenges for the Canadian Forces. Of the 39,000 Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan — many more than one tour — 8 per cent are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 5.2 per cent have been diagnosed with other mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety disorders, according to the defence department.

In the United States, this is ALSO a HUGE problem. The Wounded Warrior project reports:

With advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor, an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving severe wounds or injuries. For every US soldier killed in World Wars I and II, there were 1.7 soldiers wounded. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, for every US soldier killed, seven are wounded. Combined, over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.

But here’s the problem: Far too many of us either don’t KNOW about these issues or far too many of us are UNWILLING to do OUR part in serving the brave men and women who served US. Men like Cpl. Steve Stoesz, who returned to Canada in 2008 after surviving three bomb attacks in Afghanistan and suffering speech and balance problems, who said he is worn down by the amount of red tape he has needed to go through to get counselling, physiotherapy and other medical care [including having to wait up to 3 years to get surgery for some of his injuries].

Just this past summer in the US, there were 38 soldier suicides in July’s 31 days, and the suicide-a-day rate of ex and current soldiers has been running around AT LEAST one-a-day for a while now. Retired general Peter Chiarelli, who until January was the Army’s No. officer and top suicide fighter, recently stated he believes soldiers mental-health problems have never gotten the study and the resulting research funding typically given to cancer and heart disease. He also made one of the most LUCID comments on this issue I’ve heard so far:

“We’ve under-invested in this area for so goddam long..”

He couldn’t be any more correct.

This Is Your Conscience

Lincoln Anthony Blades can be found on Twitter at @LincolnABlades and on Instagram at @ThisIsYourConscience