Veterans Day is Wednesday, November 11, 2009. Since 9/11, more than 1.7 million men and women have served in the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
War changes people. Research confirms that the battle does not end when combat soldiers return home. For many the battle intensifies. Many struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), substance abuse, violent rages, and strained family relationships.
Our combat veterans need more than lip service and parades.
Here are five ideas to transform the life of a soldier and help him or her win their personal battle at home:
- Presume Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will occur. Treat all combat soldiers in theatre and at home as if they were already experiencing PTSD. Lift the 5-year diagnosis time period attached to PTSD.One in three soldiers will return from war with PTSD. The probability increases dramatically with multiple deployments. Screening for PTSD is flawed since symptoms can be masked for many years and it carries a debilitating stigma that is a barrier to seeking help.
- Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from occurring. The cause of a war-related TBI is most often from exposure of a detonated IED or from a motor vehicle accident. Improved safety devices like head restraints need to be explored.One in five combat veteran returns home with a TBI. Repeated deployments increase the likelihood of an occurrence exponentially.
- Prepare job-ready Guard and Reserve soldiers. Help them translate their experience in a combat zone to skills local job markets want.National Guard and Reserve troops make up 48% of the armed forces in the war zones. Many while down range have received “Dear John,” letters from employers whose businesses have collapsed with the weight of economic difficulty.
- Auto-enroll Guard and Reserve soldiers who have been deployed to war into the Veteran Affairs health and benefit system. Only 20% of veterans now use the VA healthcare system. Many fail to register for these benefits.
- Search and identify the children of active duty Guard and Reserve troops. Provide school-based mental health wellness programs to help them cope with a parent’s deployment and return.While in Iraq, Afghanistan, or at home, soldiers worry for the health and happiness of their children. Studies reveal that children of deployed troops experience significantly more stress than their friends.