Wars in America have traditionally been fought with either volunteers who signed up for a specific term of service or, if drafted, returned home due to end of service or having garnered sufficient “points” while in front line combat. More points meant earlier returned home. However, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have witnessed different rules of engagement. Many current members of our armed forces are now in their fifth or eighth or tenth “deployment.” It is obvious that constant rotation back and forth from avoiding death to time out result in tremendous strain upon those involved in this madness.
The evidence is now conclusive that our current wars are placing enormous pressure upon issues of mental health. Suicides in the US armed forces during 2012 surged to a record 349 deaths. The prior year it was 301. Pressure on family life, marriages, confusion as to the meaning of being at “peace”when friends daily confront death adds to the pressures and anxieties. of those serving. For all too many the end result is the end of life.
We must cease deployments. We must provide those who serve better access to mental health professionals. We must support wives and children of those who serve through the difficult days of deployment and return “home.”