By Mike Coffman
In April 1991, I returned home from serving as a light armored infantry officer with the U.S. Marine Corps in the first Gulf War. The unit was the first battalion to engage Iraqi forces inside of Kuwait. We did so for three days prior to the main ground attack on Feb. 24, 1991.
|Mike Coffman Denver Post|
For us, the stress of being on the front lines waiting for combat turned out to be worse than the actual combat phase itself because the Iraqi army had been severely degraded in a punishing bombing campaign that preceded the ground attack.
While preparing to go home after the war ended, I attended an out-briefing by Navy psychologists about some of the psychological challenges that we would likely face. What I remember most was his warning that we had become members of a highly interdependent ground combat team that had been together for months and that after we were separated and alone for the first time, we were likely to experience depression.
Many troops used to the stresses of combat and the interdependent bonds of their fellow soldiers have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life and come home feeling isolated and alone.
In fact, many find themselves needing help that too often just isn't there.
It is absolutely vital that we as a nation address the twin crisis of veteran suicide and mental health issues.
Today, thousands of servicemen and women and recent military veterans have seen combat. Many have seen their buddies killed or witnessed death up close. Many have also been wounded and had to endure extended and frequently painful and difficult recoveries. These are types of events that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other types of mental illness.
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I left this comment.
While I applaud you talking about all this, it is troubling to see the "22 a day" used when it is not true. Sorry, but you are on the Committee and should know better. The CDC reports there are more than 40,000 suicides in America. At the same time, states are reporting veterans are committing suicide double the civilian population rate. That means there are over 26,000 veterans ending their lives after risking them for the sake of others. The VA study was an average from 21 states with limited data.Looks more like there is a triple crisis for veterans when members of Congress haven't even taken the time to find out what is true and what is false.
Gulf War veterans have been forgotten about but so have Vietnam veterans. They are the majority of the suicide demographic yet no one is talking about that fact. They are not talking about families like mine even though Vietnam veterans are the ones who came home and fought for all the research done on PTSD. Had Congress asked any of us, we could have helped these young veterans everyone is talking about.
By the way, all the Bills Congress passed did not work. OEF and OIF veteran suicides are triple their peer rate after they had been trained to be "resilient" even though researchers knew it would make the problem worse. All the Bills coming out of Congress are repeats of "doing something" instead of doing the right thing.