‘Support our troops’ is more than a slogan

Here is some depressing news: According to a story in USA Today last week, U.S. soldiers killed themselves at the rate of one per day in June, a rate that made it the worst month on record for Army suicides.

The count of confirmed or suspected suicides was 32 — and 22 of the soldiers had been in combat at some time during their service.

This is a grim reminder that many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars face problems, especially when they return home. Readjustment can be tough, and sometimes impossible, even for soldiers who have not endured extreme physical trauma.

The commonly invoked assertion that “we support our troops” needs to apply on the home front as well as the battlefield. When veterans and their families need help to reconcile civilian life with the changes that military experience brings, they should have access to high-quality counseling, information resources, treatment and other care, in addition to standard benefits and rights.

Fortunately, they have more such options today than before. Public agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and private veterans groups say they are placing greater emphasis on assessing returning veterans and responding to their needs. Every county has its own Department of Veterans’ Services dedicated to ensuring that veterans and/or widows and dependents in the county receive the entitlements and benefits authorized by federal, state and local regulations.

It is important to ensure that veterans know these resources are available during their transition and that no stigma will attach to using them. The nation has an obligation to support the men and women who risk their lives to preserve freedom around the world.

That obligation does not end once they are ostensibly out of harm’s way.

Copyright (c) 2010, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.