Opinion: Who protects the troops?

Madmen and butchers have no place in the 21st century, and as America continues to face a very uncertain future, we must not turn a blind eye.

“Madmen and butchers have no place in the 21st century, and as America continues to face a very uncertain future, we must not turn a blind eye.”

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul is a sophomore political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

There is no nobler thing than to give oneself to their country. Our fighting men and women are the absolute best this country has to offer. Faced with two wars, they have met every goal and accomplished every mission this country has asked of them. However, our troops are coming home with the unfortunate side effects of combat.

Countless service members are suffering from mental trauma, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Suicides are at heartbreaking levels. For example, last June one service member committed suicide every day leading to an overall increase of 24 percent. Congressman Tim Ryan even discussed the issue, revealing “From ’05 to ’09, we’ve had 1,100 soldiers commit suicide, one every 36 hours.” Young males just out of combat usually commit these suicides; however, the number of women is increasing.

Sexual assault among soldiers is also on the rise; however, the Department of Defense has taken a mum’s-the-word stance of that issue. These are the unknown casualties of war. As military operations continue in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can expect more broken soldiers. The suicide rate has already reached epidemic levels. America has seemed to turn a blind eye to a problem that should have our full attention. Maybe this is because we no longer view war the ways we once did. America has come a long way from the romanticized view of combat that was prominent during the Civil War, and it seems that the public has become desensitized to the cruel reality of war and the casualties that war brings.

The United States needs to have a national conversation about the mental health problems plaguing those who protect our freedoms and liberties. It is obvious that we need to put a stop to the concept that it is better to remain quiet instead of talking about experiences in combat. The responsibility also lies with the government. Extended tours of duty are just one of many contributing factors to an already stressful job.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided an excellent service for America’s bravest and it has attempted to address the mental health problem but it has become abysmally outdated when battling the effects of 21st century warfare. The VA needs more counselors, psychologists and mental health screenings.

The mental epidemic is part of many continuing problems facing returning troops, such as unemployment and homelessness. If we abandon those who gave what Abraham Lincoln called their “last full measure of devotion” to this country, we would be allowing a great failure of America’s moral fabric.