When Troops Left Iraq They Faced an Uncertain Future at Home
The troops came home from a war that seemed like it would never end. It was a long time coming since the beginning of the war in Iraq, dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and ended in 2011. This war affected so many Americans, especially if you had a family member or friend serving in the Armed Forces. I have read countless tragic stories, and had many conversations with men and women who have served in this bloody and deadly war. Some sources say the casualties were approximately 150,000.00 to 461,000 people killed, and over 30,000 Americans wounded, not including those that do not have physical wounds, but have come home with deep emotional wounds. Our men and women of the military have sacrificed so much for the sake of protecting our freedom. Making sure that our families stay safe from people that want to cause harm to us. The question is, what did the men and women of the military come home to?
Many of our soldiers reunited with their families after months, sometimes years of separation. Children saw their parents again or maybe for the first time. Wives and husbands were reunited with all of the tears and fanfare they most certainly deserved. When all of the fanfare was over, what did they face? Many of our soldiers returned to their lives and began to put the pieces back together, but many were not able to salvage the pieces of their lives because of the scars left behind from the war.
A major issue facing our returning troops is post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. PTSD and depression affected 8.5% to 14% of the soldiers returning from Iraq. Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are:
- Recurrent re-experiencing the trauma
- Having a phobia of people, places that remind the sufferer of the trauma
- sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, blackouts, increased tendency and reaction to be being startled
PTSD and depression symptoms can lead to alcoholism, substance abuse and aggressive behaviors causing even further problems for our returning soldiers. These conditions, if not treated, can result in the inability to be able find employment, trouble maintaining relationships, violence and suicide.
The ability to find gainful employment is an issue for many of us who have not served in the military. This was an additional challenge for our returning soldiers. With the unemployment rate in this country at that time, higher than it had been in years, finding employment was a daunting task. In President Obama's speech given December 14, 2011, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the President said he has "worked with Congress to pass a tax credit so that companies have an incentive to hire vets. And Michelle has worked with the private sector to get commitments to create 100,000 jobs for those who've served." This was definitely a positive step to helping our soldiers begin to pull their lives back together. The need for more access to housing, counseling and employment is what was needed to aid our returning soldiers. A large number of our veterans ended up homeless due to lack of medical and psychological assistance needed to get them on the right track.
We owe our troops tremendous gratitude for their sacrifice and service to our country. If you own a company or have the ability to provide services of some kind that you think would could help a veteran, please contact the veteran organization of your choice and offer your services. Whatever we can do to help these soldiers who have given so much to us is a deed for the good of the country. These brave men and women served our country fearlessly and with great dignity. We all owe them our thanks.
JAMA and Archives Journals (2010, June 7). About one-tenth of soldiers returning from Iraq may be impaired by mental health problems,
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