The ongoing war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan will always be a heavily debated topic from its beginning on October 7, 2001 with the attack on America soil on 9/11. But an ongoing war that is often ignored is the servicemen and women of those who return home from combat and suffer from psychological problems.
As a Veteran of the U. S.Army myself that suffers from PTSD, I am disturb by the staggering reports of the number of combat veterans returning from war that commit violent crimes displaying symptoms of mental health problems that often go untreated. Should mentally ill troops who break the law be held accountable or is the defense of combat related PTSD now just an excuse for them to act any way without being held responsible for their actions? It is estimated that 806,964 U. S. Army soldiers have served in Iraq, including 146,655 Army National Guard and 74,461 Army Reserve.Military doctors estimate that 20 percent of soldiers and 42 percent of reservists have returned from Iraq with some kind of psychological problem.
According to the National Public Radio, “A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association says the invisible injuries plaguing soldiers returning from war in Iraq such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or just a sense of ‘not feeling normal’- are common mental health problems, and are most likely to show up several months after a soldier gets home. This is often due to lack of medical care once a soldier is discharged, not properly identifying the disorder, from being under treated, or more commonly because they are ashamed to admit they need help. An investigation by National Public Radio found that the Army had punished and Dishonorably Discharged soldiers with ptsd. Two veterans groups are currently suing the Department of Veterans Affairs for its “shameful failures” in providing mental health treatment. Mac McClelland, a reporter from Reuters. om, asks “Did they offer treatment, are they properly identifying disorders……could this have been stopped earlier? ”Unreliable evidence and media coverage of violence and assaults committed by ex-servicemen has focused attention on whether serving in combat makes soldiers less stable and more prone to violent outbursts. Often, it can be said that having naturally higher levels of aggressive temperaments make very good soldiers.
Kelland writes on Yahoo. com about a study that the Army erformed that, “The study’s results found that men who had seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan were 53 percent more likely to commit violent offences than their fellow soldiers in non-combat roles. Men who had multiple traumatic combat experiences had a 70 to 80 percent higher risk of becoming violent criminals. ” She continues by stating, “The study found that those in combat roles were more than 50 percent more likely than those in non-combat roles to commit assaults or threaten violence after returning. Although many soldiers are more at risk for violence because of prior criminal activity, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental abuse, many were law abiding citizens prior to war and violent offences are more common in lower ranking soldiers. It is difficult to estimate how many veterans might be affected by the stress of killing because the military does not collect statistics on how many have killed in the line of duty, not even among those who are treated for depression or ptsd. According to Dr. Brett T.
Litz, the associate director of the National Center for ptsd, “The lasting psychological consequences of killing are strikingly under-researched. Unfortunately, we are just now getting serious about scientifically evaluating the unique psychological and social scars of killing and other potentially morally injurious experiences in Iraq. ” News Max Media reports on an Army study revealed that, “Back home, the soldiers carried weapons with them because they felt “naked” and unsafe and had difficulty transitioning to civilian life. Some said they felt “weird” and didn’t fit in. And that, “Nationally, at least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing in the United States or been charged in one. ” This proves that not only does the war change the life of the soldiers that is sent over to fight and defend our country, but also those around them once they return.
War can often affect those victims we may have forgotten of which are the family and loved ones of the soldiers that return. Sadly, reporter John Rudolph writes, “The rise in violent sex crimes was accompanied by a similar but not as pronounced rise in child abuse and domestic violence crimes involving Army personnel.Child abuse cases rose 43 percent since 2006, while domestic abuse increased more than 30 percent. Alcohol-related offenses, meanwhile, rose by 54 percent.
” But, perhaps if we are able to understand what it is that causes soldiers to commit crimes outside wartime deployments, we may be able to develop better prevention and intervention programs for troops as they reintegrate into civilian life. A website created for PTSD support states, “The Army knows an increasing number of Fort Carson combat veterans are coming home with war-related mental illnesses and brain injuries that can change their behavior. They continue to say, “The Army is still trying to determine how many Soldiers suffer brain-damaging concussions caused by insurgent bombs and what the behavioral symptoms might be. ” This knowledge, in conjunction with various support programs, may be the solution to a decline in the number of soldiers that offend.
But how many victims will it take to establish a solution?