Some of America’s finest and bravest armed forces members are currently stationed in Iraq. While the majority of Americans respect them for their valor in the face of intense conflict, very few bother to consider the personal cost of soldiers involved in piecing together the torn nation.
Nearly 600 soldiers have died as a result of the fighting in Iraq, and over 60 percent of these deaths occurred after the end of the war. But it is not just the bombs or the enemy fire killing these soldiers – shell shock has wreaked its havoc in Iraq as well as here in the United States.
Since the end of major combat, 22 suicides have been reported in Iraq, and 19 of those deaths occurred among Army soldiers alone. However, this number fails to include the soldiers who have taken their lives since returning stateside.
Additionally, over 600 soldiers have been evacuated from Iraq for psychiatric reasons, after Pentagon officials sent in mental-health teams.
Because the U.S. military is doing its best to conceal the scope of the war’s psychiatric toll, the Pentagon refuses to release the results of the evaluations.
The Pentagon’s secret keeping is fueled by its fear of losing the support of the American population and subsequently, the financial support of Congress.
But by not providing our armed services with proper mental health care, the job that they have done, and the pain they endure for serving their nation is being completely disrespected.
This silence is a complete disregard for the private consequences that soldiers suffer as a result of their calling.
They are committing suicide, overdosing on a variety of drugs and hanging themselves in Veteran Affairs hospitals because they have seen, and in their own minds become, the demons they have always feared.
They have lived in the midst of unrelenting gunfire, shell blasts and bloodshed for months – constantly looking over their shoulders.
For many of them, it will not end anytime soon.
The U.S. government needs to end its silence on the psychiatric condition of soldiers, so the American people can help these men and women. They have suffered enough.
Let us hope that the job these troops are doing for the people of Iraq is remotely worth what it’s doing to them personally, If not, God help us all.
Karen E. Marsh for The Editorial Board