We in the United States have generations of soldiers who have returned from foreign lands where they have been put into situations that completely contradict our human nature, leaving scars physically, emotionally, and psychologically. These men and women return to their lives and try to bury the pain and scars, and hopefully resume “normal” life. If they cannot, their lives are torn apart as are the lives of their family and friends who must pick up the broken pieces.
Unfortunately, these veterans often do not receive the medical and emotional help they need and deserve. This has been particularly true of the terrible mental scars they bring home and that surface after they return displaying symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. The word “disorder” is medical code for “a collection of symptoms we don’t really know the cause of, but something is clearly wrong”.
In response to this situation a group of health practitioners and business people in our local community have organized a program to donate their time and resources to provide help for these brave men and women of our armed services. We call it the Forgotten Soldier Program. Our current focus is on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. With hundreds and thousands of service people returning from deployment from our ongoing wars, there is no better time to get a program of this nature off the ground.
Our mission, stated simply is to help “Bring the Soul Home.”
This Saturday, we held our first wellness program event at our local fairgrounds. It was a small, but meaningful, beginning that saw veterans receiving a host of free services, and so importantly, saw a community reaching out and recognizing a real host of health problems that are so often ignored and that our veterans are spending the rest of their lives fighting. You can see an artist’s representation of The Forgotten Soldier at clicking here.
We began the program with veterans telling their stories. As a non-military person, I was overwhelmed by the stories that were told by veterans who had suffered and survived terrible injuries and who had returned home only to meet closed doors and brick walls as they searched for help for their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. No one was unmoved as one Vietnam veteran told his story of torture and terror in a prison camp.
That such men should have to fight for years for the proper medical help and recognition to treat the aftermath of their brave service is a lasting shame on our nation. The military provides basic medical services for the physical injuries, but extremely limited services for the mental and emotional injuries with which so many men and women come home.
My experiences as a practitioner are that not only are mental and emotional issues not treated through the veterans administration, but most dare not even admit they are suffering from mental issues such as PTSD or depression. I have, on a number of occasions, had individuals in my office tell me they are suffering from depression and or anxiety and then ask that I not write it in their records. I recently had a male teen, with the intention of joining the service sit in my office discussing anxiety and possible depression and ask that no records be kept on that subject so as not to risk his future enrollment in the service.
A tragic statistic is that 23% of our homeless are veterans of war.
This seems a crime to me. These men and women have served their country and because mental illness is a dirty word in our society they are abandoned, left without the help and tools they need to help themselves, resulting in so many ending up on the street.
An article in News Today points to the timeliness of this program and the real need for emotional disorders to be brought out from behind closed doors and treated like any other chronic life threatening disease of our time.
The article reads:
“Thousands of U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who were discharged from the military because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been told they can apply for an expedited review of their cases to determine if they were improperly denied benefits.
The legal notices sent to about 4,300 veterans explain that they have until July 24 to join a lawsuit against the U.S. military in order to be included in the expedited review, the Associated Press reported.
The lawsuit was launched by seven combat veterans who allege the military illegally denied health care and other benefits to veterans discharged because of PTSD during a six-year period that ended Oct. 14, 2008.
Each of the seven plaintiffs was given a disability rating of 10 percent or less when discharged. Since October 2008, the military has given a disability rating of at least 50 percent to those discharged with PTSD, the AP reported.
A higher disability rating ensures lifelong monthly disability benefits for a veteran, free health care for the veteran and his/her spouse and health care for the veteran’s minor children.”
Because of the diligent struggle of veterans at home, the situation has improved some as the reality of PTSD has become more accepted, there is a long way to go. Here are veterans who need help in just about every community across this land. Are there ways you can organize and reach out in your community? Even small things can make a world of difference.
Please visit our website for inspiration forgottensoldierprogram.org, please help for there are veterans near you who can use it.
The video below is well worth watching and speaks to the heart.