Posted By Levi
May 1st, 2012 8:36pm
The United States invaded Iraq in March, 2003. The war lasted for almost 10 years. The toll: 4500 Americans dead and over 32,000 wounded.
We invaded Afghanistan a little earlier – in October 2001, shortly after the 911 tragedy. The war is now in its 11th year, making it the longest war in the nation’s history. Over 1800 Americans have been killed so far with nearly 16,000 wounded.
But I was shocked to learn that the killing fields have largely shifted from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to right here at home. According to a recent op-ed by New York Times columnist, Nicholas Khristof,
“An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.”
Just think about that for a moment – more than 6500 veterans commit suicides every year; that’s more than the number of American soldiers killed in both wars over 11 years.
Khristof highlights the case of Cheryl DeBow who raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks.
“I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he told his mom. Two years later, Ryan followed his beloved older brother to the Army. When Michael was discharged, DeBow picked him up at the airport — and was staggered. “When he got off the plane and I picked him up, it was like he was an empty shell,” she told me. “His body was shaking.” Michael began drinking and abusing drugs, his mother says, and he terrified her by buying the same kind of gun he had carried in Iraq. “He said he slept with his gun over there, and he needed it here,” she recalls.
Then Ryan returned home in 2007, and he too began to show signs of severe strain. He couldn’t sleep, abused drugs and alcohol, and suffered extreme jitters. “He was so anxious, he couldn’t stand to sit next to you and hear you breathe,” DeBow remembers. A talented filmmaker, Ryan turned the lens on himself to record heartbreaking video of his own sleeplessness, his own irrational behavior — even his own mock suicide.
This is a national disgrace and should be making headlines around the country. But it is not. The reason for this is because the tragedy of war is being borne by only a fraction of the population – the military families whose sons and daughters are sent off to fight wars in distant lands. It is just amazing how some of the nation’s leaders talk so casually about wars and are willing to send other peoples’ children to fight yet when they come home and need necessary medical attention, the nation turns its back on them. So much for supporting the troops.