Some thoughts to ponder today.
We’re really good at making civilians into soldiers. The US has the best fighting machine in the history of civilization. There’s really no comparison.
We’re not very good at turning soldiers back into civilians and having them re-enter the civilian world though. I haven’t ever been a soldier, but based on conversations I have had over the years with soldier and veteran friends, it is my understanding that these are two very different worlds. And that makes sense. And there are many soldiers who have a difficult time re-entering the civilian world.
It’s disturbing that we have increasing suicide rates of both soldiers and veterans.
The suicide rate among veterans has surged 35 percent since 2001, driven in part by sharp increases among those who have served since 2001, according to the largest study of such suicides. Of particular concern is the suicide rate among women, which has increased 85 percent in that time.
And it’s disturbing that there are many homeless veterans.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans.
The same could be said for veterans who face addictions.
A number of studies have shown that there are links between veteran substance abuse, depression, and suicide. In one study that involved roughly 600 veterans who were deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq, 39% of the vets were screened and showed positive for probable alcohol abuse. 3% of the vets screened were positive for probable drug use.
A larger study that involved more than 675,000 active duty personnel determined that the rate of both substance use disorders and depression has increased among active members of the military. Another study determined that the rate of suicide across all military services in the USA increased between 2005 and 2007.
I tend to believe that there is not a simple reason for any of this, nor is there a simple solution either. One thing that is never talked about is what happens to a person and how they are changed in the process of making a soldier. That might touch a nerve though. In training a soldier, we aren’t just training people for a job, we are changing who they are as a person to do things that civilians will never have to do. Some of those things turn out to be dangerous and deadly. I can only imagine the toll that takes on a person.
If we are going to continue to make soldiers and change who they are as a person, we owe it to those same soldiers and to society in general to figure out how to reshape a person back into a civilian, to offer the proper support that is needed for veterans, and to do what we can internationally to pursue peace so that war is less of a reality in the future.