Breeze Editorial | Little peace at home for America’s vets
On Saturday, at the 11th hour of the 11th month, Americans will again mark the pending peace pact of “the war of all wars.”
Called Armistice Day back in 1918, what is now Veterans Day began with the temporary end of the hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. While World War I did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, Veterans Day has its roots as a day of peace and it has become the day we thank those who served.
But for too many American veterans, particularly those who served in our country’s post-9/11 wars, peace is lacking as they struggle to fight battles within.
Despite the efforts of the Veterans Administration, despite studies, analyses and programs of aid and intervention, those who served during the overlapping wars on terror — Iraq from 2003-2011 and Afghanistan, 2001-2021 — are dying.
And at a heartbreaking rate, the only demographic where death by suicide among veterans continues to increase.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report found at mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/data.asp, the suicide rate among veterans increased across the board from 2001 to 2020 with the rate for those between the ages of 18 and 34 rocketing by 95.3%.
From 2019 to 2020, suicide rates have decreased among veterans except for those between the ages of 18 and 34 where deaths continue to climb; where, for veterans 18-44, suicide ranks as the No. 2 cause of death after accidents.
For those of us with family members who enlisted in the wake of 9/11 and then deployed to wage what our country called the War on Terrorism, our greatest fear was that they wouldn’t come home.
For those of us who counted ourselves lucky, most did come home, some visibly wounded, many not.
What we didn’t know was that our fear not only came home with them, but came home in them.
And they — our sons, our daughters, our spouses, our loved ones — are continuing to fall on a field of battle they are finding far more deadly than the one on which they served.
At least four times as many active-duty personnel and war veterans of post-9/11 conflicts have died by suicide than in combat, according to Brown University, Watson Institute For International And Public Affairs, in a June 21, 2021 report.
The paper, which may be found at watson.brown.edu, estimates that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the post-9/11 wars have died by suicide — more than four times the 7,057 service members killed in war operations.
Causes cited range from mental health issues and substance abuse to other health-related and societal challenges.
Preventative solutions range from VA services to efforts in nearly all states with 500-plus local suicide prevention coalitions.
Yet here we are.
Here we are still.
We thank those who served and those who serve.
We grieve for the lost and those who love them.
May every veteran, of every war, of every branch of service, know that they can reach out.
To a friend. To a family member. To the veterans crisis line — 988, press 1, or, via text, 838255. To the nearest emergency room.
Please, give the country, the people you fought for, an opportunity to reach back in gratitude for all you have given.