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

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.

7 Comments

  1. lincolnanthonyblades

    09/27/2012 at 5:53 AM

    Ladies & Gentlemen, do you think these soldiers issues are under-researched and under-funded? If so, what can we do as a society to help them?

  2. petersburgh

    09/27/2012 at 7:06 AM

    Yes I do think so. Visit them and I'm not only speaking about the ones who came back good. I mean the amputees, and those types. A hug and a thank you sometimes mean so much to us who never fought a day in our lives so how much would it mean to them. Sometimes people just want to hear thank you or I appreciate everything you did and I don't mean from a politician trying to score points on a podium either. Start a fund or some sort of charity etc. We really can do much more than what's happening currently

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/27/2012 at 1:31 PM

      Agreed. But the problem is most people would hate a tax hike used to support them, yet we still want to claim we LOVE them.

  3. Paul B.

    09/27/2012 at 9:50 AM

    Very much so. It's a situation if being used, ran into the ground and then thrown away. It shows how little such a huge sacrifice is valued in our country and can turn a lot of people off because if they're on their own if/when they come back, why leave in the first place? They can be on their own and still be in one piece here.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/27/2012 at 1:31 PM

      Real talk.

  4. mena

    09/27/2012 at 12:27 PM

    It's 3 things: underfunded, underresearched, and underreported. The military has to first change their culture of soldiers coming in to report when they are going through a hardship. Also, the higher ups need to actually listen to what the soldiers are going through and be the soldiers advocates.

    The culture is changing though. Sadly, it's changing slowly, but it is starting to change. The more interest that is being taken in soldiers returning home with PTSD and mental illnesses, the more that can be done.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/27/2012 at 1:32 PM

      Yeh I never understood why the military itself is dragging it's feet on giving these men and women the help they need.

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