Friday, April 02, 2010

Suicides and other veterans' issues

Fort Hood has had at least nine questionable deaths among young soldiers in the first three months of 2010, more than half of them confirmed suicides, despite Army efforts to reverse a trend linked to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The San Antonio Express-News found five Fort Hood soldiers died under unknown circumstances in March. Two were confirmed as suicides.

The above is from Sig Christenson's "Fort Hood suicides are rising" (San Antonio Express-News) which notes that last year there were 160 possible suicides in the Army, "140 of which were confirmed." The ones ruled a suicide so far this year are Pfc Donnel C. Harris, Pvt Curtis Zachary Shinneman, Pfc Reid Taylor Little, Spc John Carl Lawson and Spc Jonathan L. Hughey. It should be noted that while military suicides are on the rise, the military rulings aren't always accurate and that family and other loved ones may disagree with the rulings. (Not many people, for example, take their own lives by shooting themselves in the back of the head with a rifle too large for them to hold at such an angle.) Meanwhile Tom Vanden Brooks (USA Today) reports on combat stress:

Soldiers such as Grant Speakes, who say they killed enemy troops in combat, are at greater risk of suffering combat stress and having emotional problems, a new study shows.
Those soldiers often pay a profound psychological and emotional toll, according to Shira Maguen, lead author of the study on soldiers and post-traumatic stress disorder. Of nearly 2,800 soldiers surveyed, 40% reported killing or being responsible for somebody's death in Iraq.
"Those who acknowledged killing somebody in combat were more likely to have PTSD symptoms, anger, relationship problems," said Maguen, a staff psychologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Grant Speakes is among tens of thousands of U.S. troops who say they have had some type of combat stress from their service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the nearly 2 million veterans, 5% to 20% have some symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Charles Lewis (Buffalo News) reports on other challenges facing veterans:

And returning Iraq Army veteran Chris Krieger, a co-founder of the WNYHeroes effort, said he lost his suburban four-bedroom home because of delays in receiving a VA disability pension for the effects of roadside bombings.
The gap also can surface in the struggles of a child who temporarily lost the comfort and guidance of a parent sent to war, and then must confront adjustments to the sometimes-rocky return of a person changed by wartime experiences.
Veterans who have fought for this country deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and to have every bit of help that can be afforded in making the transition back into the lives they've left. That doesn't always happen. This grass-roots effort offers a chance to help ease their return and offer at least temporary help with financial and emotional problems. It deserves support.

Female veterans can face the above and they cab face additional issues. Krystyna Slivinski (Chicago Tribune) observes, "Some may need counseling for sexual trauma, medical care or employment training, but the problem lies in getting them the information they need." She notes that over 50,000 of the "1.7 million female veterans in the US" reside in Illinois. Earlier this week, the VA announced they will be holding a one day forum in July (no date given yet) for "women Veterans and their advocates" to provide feedback on how their issues are or are not being addressed and to "develop tool kits for strengthening women Veteran networks through work with local VA facilities." On female veterans, we'll drop back to the March 25th snapshot to note this from the subcommittee hearing on proposed veterans legislation:

US House Rep Leonard L. Boswell is sponsoring HR 3926. Boswell took a moment to recognize his legislative director Alexis Taylor who is an Iraq War veteran and he explained discovery the need for this bill when Taylor "went back to Iowa for a five-year post-deployment reunion with her unit and others and one of the women at the reunion had returned home from serving her country and was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy at age 25. Through the course of the night, the service members at the reunion were able to piece together, talk to one another, about six women they were deployed with who had come back from their deployment in Iraq with breast cancer -- all between the ages of 25 to 35 years old. Also, there were another half dozen women who returned with new lumps in their breasts that needed additional tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds and/or biopsies. With 70 women deployed in a battallion of about 700, this incidence rate in young women seemed high and alarming as Alexis brought this to my attention." His bill calls for a study on breast cancer within the service and within veterans to determine whether the rate is higher among the military and whether breast cancer might be a service connected disability? Boswell noted that he personally believes it is. He also explained how, during Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange and suffers many health issues as a result and feels that the Congress needs to be on top of this issue now and not waiting as was the case with recognition of the effects of Agent Orange. "If we could do something about it," he declared, "and we don't, shame on us."

Yesterday it was announced that Special Forces will not be leaving Iraq at the end of August. Navy Adm Eric Olson declared in a Pentagon briefing that they will not be part of the drawdown.

Community sites updating last night (and a few non-community sites just to run it all together and to toss out a few links):

If you can stream online, Tavis' interview with Andie isn't to be missed and he also had a great interview with Ana Torv the day before.

We'll close with this from Craig Considine "Obama: Continuing Bush’s War Crimes with Drone Bombing Campaign" (World Can't Wait):

When Obama was campaigning on ‘Hope and Change’ in 2008, many Americans thought he was committed to implementing future foreign policies that would drift drastically away from the ’war on terror’ initiatives directed under the infamous Bush II administration.
Yet over one year into his Presidency, Obama has actually expanded upon one of Bush’s gross military endeavors: the United States’ drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For many Americans, it is unfathomable to think that Obama has been more gruesome than Bush. Even putting the two in the same sentence sounds like blasphemy. But the fact is the Obama administration has used the Predator and Reaper drones much more often than the Bush administration.

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