Vets' suicides: casualties that go uncounted and another hidden cost of war

News & Politics

Yesterday, I wrote about the number of vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post traumatic stress disorder -- much of it undiagnosed -- even while veterans' care is on the chopping block in the next budget.

I want to share an e-mail I received, in response to that post, from reader Penny Coleman, whose husband suffered from PTSD and sadly took his own life after coming home from Vietnam. She writes …

The facet of the issue that has been consistently minimized, if not erased, is that the emotional wounds of soldiers and veterans -- and the suicides that so often tragically result -- are not a new phenomenon. No one knows how many Vietnam veterans killed themselves because no one ever bothered to track or count. There are many experts, Jonathan Shay for example, who have no trouble believing that there have been more suicides since the war than there are names on the Wall, but whatever the actual number, those deaths never triggered the kind of official response one might expect from such an epidemic. In fact, the official response has been to point to the lack of proof of a causal relationship between PTSD and suicide, proof that could only be established by scientific studies that were never done.

When it began to happen again, and this time to active duty soldiers as well as to recently returned veterans, the news was received, by the administration, the VA, the military and, to an overwhelming extent, the media, with disingenuous surprise.

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