Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Veteran Suicides A Major Problem—Before We Kill You With Neglect, We Tell You How Much We Care

Opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recently wrote about suicides of  American veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here is some of what Mr. Kristof said—

“HERE’S a window into a tragedy within the American military: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands. An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began. These unnoticed killing fields are places like New Middletown, Ohio, where Cheryl DeBow raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks. Then Michael was discharged, DeBow picked him up at the airport — and was staggered. “When he got off the plane and I picked him up, it was like he was an empty shell,” she told me. “His body was shaking.” Michael began drinking and abusing drugs, his mother says, and he terrified her by buying the same kind of gun he had carried in Iraq. “He said he slept with his gun over there, and he needed it here,” she recalls. Then Ryan returned home in 2007, and he too began to show signs of severe strain. He couldn’t sleep, abused drugs and alcohol, and suffered extreme jitters….Michael and Ryan, like so many other veterans, sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, declined to speak to me, but the most common view among those I interviewed was that the V.A. has improved but still doesn’t do nearly enough about the suicide problem…Likewise, neither Michael nor Ryan received much help from V.A. hospitals. In early 2010, Ryan began to talk more about suicide, and DeBow rushed him to emergency rooms and pleaded with the V.A. for help. She says she was told that an inpatient treatment program had a six-month waiting list. (The V.A. says it has no record of a request for hospitalization for Ryan. While Ryan was waiting for a spot in the addiction program, in May 2010, he died of a drug overdose. It was listed as an accidental death, but family and friends are convinced it was suicide. The heartbreak of Ryan’s death added to his brother’s despair, but DeBow says Michael is now making slow progress. “He is able to get out of bed most mornings,” she told me. “That is a huge improvement…..”

Note that President Obama’s Veteran’s Secretary would not talk to Mr. Kristof.

It is no surprise that this is how we treat veterans in the United States.

The whole war in Iraq was based on a lie.

We did not give our troops the equipment they needed when fighting in Iraq.

We killed many thousands of Iraqi civilians to make clear our contempt for life.

We sent wounded veterans to Walter Reed where many of them got lousy care.

And now we let our soldiers kill themselves while Mr. Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs won’t talk to the supposed liberal apologists at The New York Times.

Here is what my late father, Tony Aquino , a Korean War combat veteran, wrote about our wars and about the Cold War —

“One thing that I learned is that the young men who fought in our wars should never be forgotten…Another fact I learned…is that millions may serve but far fewer fight. So, in reality, for many who have served, war is a glory-and-gory myth that feeds on its own legends and publicity. …Another truth I learned is that civilians are combatants in war–embattled victims perpetually on a losing side….That brings us to the biggest deception: The need to be ready defend our freedom if we are to keep it. Those who say that freedom has a price are absolutely right, and wrong: International conflict today is beyond ideology. The only freedom American and Russian leaders offer their freedom today is the freedom to kill ourselves in the name of freedom.  This is not freedom, but allegiance to a suicidal death culture….Today, we are servile to our masters, mistaking economic well-being for true freedom, which is the freedom to live hopefully and not to die needlessly.”

I found out not long after Tony’s death last year, that after he got home from Korea he would wake up from nightmares and would break dishes around the house. Tony never got over fighting in that war.

And for what? For a war that is not officially over to this day? So red-baiters at home could score political points? To defend Jim Crow?

Of course our leaders are often killers. They kill time and time again, and they do so with the enthusiastic complicity of so many of our fellow citizens. Millions of Americans are sick and crazed with a love for violence.

The expression of great care for a group of people in our country is often a kiss of death.

No matter if it is children or our veterans, you can bet that we are in good part neglecting–or worse–those we say we value most.

Both at home and abroad, let this nation be most defined most of all by our love of violence and by our contempt for those who serve.

April 18, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. “And for what?”

    For the South Korean people who are prosperous and free thanks to the efforts of your dad and others.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | April 19, 2012

  2. Yes—Though after years of right-wing dictatorships propped up by our government.

    We were not there fighting for those folks to be free. We were there because it served our purposes at the time.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 27, 2012


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