By Sarah Lazare
The call for over 30,000 more troops to be sent to Afghanistan is a travesty for the people of that country who have already suffered eight brutal years of occupation.
It is also a harsh blow to the US soldiers facing imminent deployment.
As Barack Obama, the US president, gears up for a further escalation that will bring the total number of troops in Afghanistan to over 100,000, he faces a military force that has been exhausted and overextended by fighting two wars.
Many from within the ranks are openly declaring that they have had enough, allying with anti-war veterans and activists in calling for an end to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some active duty soldiers publicly refusing to deploy.
The architects of this war would be well-advised to listen to the concerns of the soldiers and veterans tasked with carrying out their war policies on the ground.
Many of those being deployed have already faced multiple deployments to combat zones: the 101st Airborne Division, which will be deployed to Afghanistan in early 2010, faces its fifth combat tour since 2002.
“They are just going to start moving the soldiers who already served in Iraq to Afghanistan, just like they shifted me from one war to the next,” said Eddie Falcon, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Soldiers are going to start coming back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), missing limbs, problems with alcohol, and depression.”
Many of these troops are still suffering the mental and physical fallout from previous deployments.
Fort Campbell tries to address the consequences of exhausted soldiers.
As far back as 1919, exhausted warriors suffer numerous medical complications.
McClatchy has a blog dedicated to the perils facing “Wounded Warriors” a collection of veterans coverage from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, McClatchy Newspapers, and other sources
As far back as 2004, MSNBC recognized and warned about some of the consequences facing returning troops:
Coping with the aftermath of war is challenging for returning soldiers and their families. Psychologists offered ways for individuals and their families to handle post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems that may arise.
Returning Soldiers Project – The United States is in the midst of a military conflict in Iraq that has involved thousands of men and women in the armed forces of this nation. These men and women are not only regular service people, but also reserves whose necessary service disrupts their lives in a variety of ways.
Regardless of active duty or reserve status, soldiers are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, from combat to civilian life to peace time. This return can happen in as little as 48 hours with
contemporary transportation capabilities. Surely that return brings with it a host of issues related to reunion with one’s family, friends, and colleagues. There may be physical issues related to injury and rehabilitation. There may be psychological dimensions of that return that are difficult to navigate. And there may be spiritual and religious dimensions to that return that must be addressed by the individual soldier.
In addition to the issues that an individual soldier might face upon a return from combat, there are the family and friends who may experience a range of emotions upon the return of their familymember or friend.
About the Returning Soldiers Project
The Returning Soldiers Project is a collaborative effort among Villanova faculty and staff members to address an important series of questions:
- What obligation does society have to assist the returning soldier, his or her family, and his or her friends, in the transition from war to peace?
- How ought society respond to the soldier’s need for healing, physical, psychological, and/or spiritual?
- Indeed, how ought society help to facilitate any forgiveness that a soldier needs, both from him- or herself, his family and friends, and the society that sent him or her to war?
TruthHugger has often complained about the inadequate medical support system receiving troops and especially support contractors returning from hostile areas. Whether its Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa or any of those secret places the American Public is not authorized to know about, the system has a great facade but little follow through. The bureaucratic obstacle course is almost as traumatic as the environment that caused casualties in the first place. The physically and mentally harmed are damaged again and again then returned to a socially unprepared, uneducated and inadequate environment. Accountability is spotty and easily denied by a government that addresses the issue as an afterthought. Playing catch up, the US Government scrambles to clean up its negligent, short sighted support system. The best attention is being provided at smaller levels like specific military bases, specific veterans associations and non-profit agencies. But, the largest institution that falls short is still the same one that puts it’s human capital into dangerous and traumatic environments.
Returning from one traumatic environment to another can be a knock out blow to many returning people. There should be no distinction between US Military and US Support Contractors, whether you like them or not. These returnees are expected to incorporate back into, what America calls, a stable, productive and civilized society. Then, they are expected to resume whatever life they left behind. Move along. Forget about it, don’t talk about it, unless your social circle was with you in the trenches, your family and friends cannot relate to your experiences or your dreams. They cannot see your dreams. They don’t understand you are seeing them much differently than you did before you went on a violent adventure.
The worst insult for returning warriors and support contractors is the misunderstanding of their problems. America’s focus fixates on the monetary expense first and the human expense second. Mental issues caused by repeated psychological trauma is something Americans cannot deal with unless they work in the medical field. Medical expenses must be factored in when calculating war funding instead of manufacturing new destructive toys to profit generals and senators. After all, bringing industry to your constituency is so patriotic … and profitable.
Returning to America is as traumatic as leaving it. Culture shock. It does not have to be that way. Weary soldiers must be helped by allowing them to recover before expecting them to incorporate back into society. The consequences; they remain broken, traumatized and hazardous. Hazardous? Yes, the collateral damage to families sending their loved ones into harms way, then receiving a changed person back is very disruptive and can spread the toll of psychological trauma.
cross posted from TruthHugger