Although I served four years in the U.S. Army (April 1966 to April 1970), I was never in Viet Nam. I was lucky.

Watching the parades and celebrations on TV this weekend, I saw veterans from World War II and a couple from the Korean War.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the press was focusing on WWII because it was the last war we won. Maybe it was coincidental that I didn’t see any vets from Viet Nam, the Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan.

We need to call attention to vets from these more recent wars. Statistics show that WWII infantry men saw, on average, 40 days of combat in four years of war. In Viet Nam, because of helicopters and because  it was a ‘guerilla war’, the average infantry man saw 4 to 6 times as much combat in one year. Incredible statistic, isn’t it?

I recently read War and the Soul, by Edward Tick, published in 2005. Tick spent decades helping soldiers with the symptoms of PTSD. He cited the following statistic. During Viet Nam over 58,000 American soldiers died in combat or from combat related wounds. What’s worse is that the number of Viet Nam vets who committed suicide exceeded 60,000 in the 1990’s. Neither the government nor the press wants to discuss that number. To honor those 60,000 brave men and women we’d have to build a second Viet Nam War Memorial!

The Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan are yet again worse wars because so many vets have spent three or four or more tours fighting in them. This practice is inhumane. Yesterday a group of Chicago supporters marched 22 miles to call attention to the fact that 22 service men and women commit suicide every day; over 8000  victims per year. Many are from our more recent wars.

The press and the armed services talk positively of efforts to help veterans who have PTSD. But I don’t see any statistics to indicate their efforts are successful. When will our leaders in the armed services, Congress, and their civilian counterparts pay attention to this tragedy? Efforts to treat these honorable men and women as though they have a stress-related disorder are ineffective. Focusing on PTSD is like placing a bandaid on a gaping chest wound. It doesn’t stop the hemorrhaging.

May God bless our veterans, their friends and families, and may He help us find a more effective way to honor and heal our wounded warriors.

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