Monday, November 12, 2012

The Battle Continues At Home

It is quite difficult for me to wrap my mind around the results of this study. When I began doing research for this story I was both shocked and puzzled by the statistics. There are currently 22,000,000 veterans in the United States.
According to the Veterans Administration there are 75,000 Veterans who are homeless on any given night.
Veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless compared to other Americans.
About 20,000 veterans of the war's in Afghanistan, and Iraq have become homeless within the last 5 years. One of the root problems is unemployment. 12.1% of post 9/11 veterans are unemployed compared to 9% of the population. The unemployment rate among former service members ages 18-24 is 20%. More than 75% of former veterans report an inability to apply their military skills to civilian life.
President Obama has vowed to end homelessness for all US veterans by 2015, and has emphatically stated that no one who has served our country should have to struggle to find employment, or housing.
There is also the issue of mental health among some veterans. A study done by The Center For A New American Security found that every 36 hours a service member commits suicide.
Nearly 35% of deployed service members experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, and 10-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered traumatic brain disorder or TBI. But only 53% seek help for TBI or other forms of depression.
27% of returning soldiers abuse alcohol 3-4 months after they return home. The substance abuse rate for some veterans is 7.1% ( an estimated 1.8 million).
Those of us who have never served in the armed forces cannot possibly begin to understand what life in the armed forces is like. The struggles that come with making so many personal sacrifices is not something that the average person can measure. Many of us spend long days working to support our family's and we think that we are making a sacrifice. Imagine having to work in another country spending long months away from your family in honor of your country, and then having to return home to an uncertain future. Discovering that the freedoms that you fought for did nothing to make you free. Imagine returning home and discovering you do not have the liberty to pursue your happiness because you wear the mental scars of war. The majority of us just can't fathom such a chaotic shift in our lives. Our veterans deserve more.
Whenever I'd hear about a service member who chose to reenlist, or make a career out of the military I would often wonder why. I couldn't understand why someone would want to subject themselves to such rigid discipline, and the ever looming possibility of battle. But now I understand, the struggle to reaclimate into an ever changing society can be a battle all it's own.


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