Would you like to know how our veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are treated or viewed by some in America? Here is a sample of what well-meaning Americans think of these war veterans compared to their WWI and WWII counterparts. Upon hearing the report that 22 veterans commit suicide each day, here was one response. “I would be interested in a comparison with WWI, WWII, and Korean vets to the more recent battles. No disrespect intended AT ALL, but it seems that the older generation was made of ‘sterner stuff”.”
Then there are the numerous stories from the media either ignoring or downplaying the suicide rates of veterans and active duty service members. Forbes ran a story about the reported 177 soldiers killed from suicide exceeding the 176 soldiers killed in the war zone. The story ran in February of 2013. “OK: obviously that’s both 177 and 176 too many. But is that 177 something unexpected, out of the ordinary?” The article goes on to claim that given the number of people in service and the rate of suicide from nonmilitary civilians, the expected number would be 12 per 100,000 or about 180 per year for military members.
The article even later goes on to share that the estimated 21 million veterans in the U.S. means we should expect to have a suicide rate of 5,250 per year. “I just don’t see where the “epidemic” comes from” claimed Forbes. OK, how about when we know we have 22 veterans committing suicide each day and that number multiplied by 365 gives us a staggering 8030 suicides each year! Would that qualify as an epidemic?
The Ebola outbreak has been called the largest in history by the World Health Organization with 9,363 people having died in West Africa. The 8030 number we get after tabulating 22 veteran suicides per day is the lowest number estimated and it is actually believed to be more likely around 40 suicides per day according to Roberts. That would put the true number of veteran or military suicides at 14,600 per year. Sounds like that number would be a clear example of an epidemic, even by W.H.O. officials.
Chaplin Roberts went to Afghanistan to assist the troops with spiritual needs that they were sure to face in the heat of battle. Roberts said, “Chaplains aren’t allowed to carry a weapon, so I took my camera instead.” Through his movie No Greater Love, Roberts hopes to show Americans what these men fought for and to what they returned. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to military and veterans’ programs.
It’s hard to watch the clip of this movie and not be moved to tears. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch this and then search out how you can help get this important message out.
The acceptance of the public to our war veterans plays a significant part in how they perceive themselves. Men and women who are veterans, often look at the way society either accepts their service or rejects that service. If you are welcomed home you will feel more open about seeking help from those who seem to support you. If you are ignored, or as our Vietnam Veterans faced, ridiculed when you return…seeking help seems like drawing attention to a service no one appreciated.
Now, a ticker tape parade may not stop suicide but at least our veterans would feel like they were appreciated for what they have done and that it wasn’t forgotten the moment the story left the front page of the local papers. Which occurred for Iraq and Afghanistan shortly after Obama took office. Not one example of a WWI or WWII style welcome home was given; but I know we all remember the town that initially planned a rally to welcome home Bowe Bergdahl. Why did our combat veterans not rate an even greater welcome home?
Here are a few examples of comments given to one military spouse whose husband was deployed to Iraq, “I didn’t realize we still had troops over there.” and “What’s he doing in Iraq? Isn’t that war over now?” So, for those who think public support of our troops and our veterans plays no part in the suicide rate… Roberts noted, “Suicide is ONLY prevented by relationships…personal relationships”…and you cannot have those with veterans of war if you do not even realize we have guys fighting. They fought for America now it is time for America to fight for them.