On the eve of Veterans Day, former Marine Mathew Hoh shed light on a staggeringly massive issue that continues to plague men and women once they've returned from combat: suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hoh in 2009 became the first soldier to resign from the War on Terror, in protest because he believed it “wasn’t worth the fight.” He had served in Iraq during 2004-05 and resigned from his post in Afghanistan. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, and writes about peace, war and PTSD recovery, a matter close to his heart.
In an interview with Democracy Now, he said PTSD and suicidal tendencies affect up to 8,000 veterans a year.
“The suicides are a constant in the veteran community. This is something that has always occurred. I don’t like using the term 'epidemic,' because that implies that it’s somehow worse now than it was before, and I don’t think that’s ever been the case. I think men and women coming home from war have always been afflicted with suicide.”
He revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs has only just begun to gather data on a national level – a task which started a few years ago, though the suicide trend has existed since post-Vietnam. So far, 30 U.S. states have made it a point to track veteran suicide rates.
He claims that 22 veterans kill themselves every day - which is a staggering number. And out of those 22, more than two are from Iraq or Afghanistan. In an unfortunate twist of irony, veterans are more likely to die from suicide after their service as opposed to during wartime. He believes these numbers are likely to increase as veterans get older.
As a veteran, he stressed that “we don’t get help until we hit rock bottom,” before he suddenly got cut off. With such suffering in our veteran ranks, let's remember why we recognize Veterans Day, and not forget our men and women need help year-round, not just on Nov. 11.
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