Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our national myth is that we honor and take care of our war veterans

Our national myth is that we honor and take care of our war veterans

New veterans need America's compassion
Our national myth is that we honor and take care of our war veterans
Garry Trudeau, who draws Doonesbury at the bottom of this page, is one of few in the media who has paid consistent, long-term attention to the disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Trudeau had help from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which wisely offered the cartoonist firsthand experience with amputees and other veterans bearing long-term injuries.

One of our national myths is that America cares for its veterans. Through several wars, that is not the case. In this war, however, the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the military services themselves are giving more attention to psychiatric services.

As the director William Wyler depicted in his 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives, the war veteran returns to a world that has changed in his absence and he is seldom acknowledged or appreciated for his service.

San Diego's recent Stand Down, described in last Sunday's edition of The New York Times is a heartening example of a community responding to the needs of its veterans. In its third annual incarnation, this three-day beckoning to veterans is starting to see homeless vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and female veterans with children.

We must not underestimate the physical and mental damage of our current wars. Reported Erik Eckholm, "In an ominous harbinger, a recent study found that more than one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who enrolled in the veterans health system since 2001 had already displayed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or other mental health problems."

The Obamas' focus on military families is a very good thing. Senators such as Oregon's Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have the opportunity to insure that the health and economic issues of the veterans of these two wars are handled intelligently. After more than two centuries of armed conflicts, America knows enough to do that. Let's show the will to have compassion for these wounded men and women.

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