This week we celebrate Veterans Day with a salute to those who have served their country to ensure a safe, protected and free life for all. I was very lucky to be in Normandy at the 65th anniversary of D-Day and see the famous Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery.
I explored the old machinery, artillery, foxholes and bunkers that remain. It was a great experience, especially for me as a history major. And knowing how very young many are in the armed forces and how many have died for their country made us feel very humble and filled with gratitude.
Of course there have been later wars (and earlier ones, never forgetting the “Greatest Generation”) and including Vietnam, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.
Many soldiers were treated in a terrible way at homecoming after Vietnam. There is general respect shown to our Vets here in America now, although when it comes to jobs, retraining and health care, many have been badly let down.
There is no denying the fact that some of our veterans have trouble re-settling into civilian life and often have trouble getting hired. Homelessness has long been a problem for our Vets.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that affects many people who have witnessed or experienced a high level of trauma. This can happen to rape, accident and abuse victims, and those who have experienced the perils of war.
Coming back from war can result in flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Some who deal with PTSD can have a rage disorder that results in hair trigger tempers and aggressive attacks on others.
Self-medication with prescription medications and alcohol only exacerbate the condition. Left untreated, PTSD can lead to severe depression or even suicide.
In 2012 more active-duty personnel died of suicide than in the war in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno who is the Chief of Staff for the United States Army was asked why suicides have increased so much.
“We've been at war for 12 years, that's what's changed. I think also the social environment has changed.