Journalist David Finkel provides an insightful look into the lives of Iraq & Afghanistan war veterans in his latest book, “Thank You for Your Service.” As many Americans are aware, returning soldiers often struggle with severe mental health issues, often leading to suicide. In fact, in the book, Finkel addresses the fact that the suicide rate among Iraq & Afghan veterans have increased dramatically despite top-down efforts to curtail the issue.
Sadly, I wasn’t shocked to read about the struggles veterans experience in trying to receive help from federal programs designed to help physically/psychologically/emotionally wounded veterans. Indeed, the lack of compassion expressed by professionals or the bureaucratic system soldiers must go through was more aggravating than surprising. I’m not saying that these costly programs are ineffective and, therefore, should be gotten rid off. I’m sure it helps some people; group therapy may be reminiscent of the camaraderie experience abroad. But honestly, do soldiers really have to be put through such dreadful systems that even we don’t like to go through? Shouldn’t we make treatment more accessible and easy?
It also occurred to me that veterans are often burdened with guilt over their war activities/behaviors, feeling monstrous for lack of compassion expressed and blaming themselves for the death of fellow soldiers. Maybe what they really need is to know that they’re forgiven, especially by those they love most. They need to know they are not inhumane and that there is a reason they’re still alive. Yet, I realized that their aren’t many programs, if any, that help the families of soldiers prepare for either possible loss or the return of soldiers who may come back with baggage from the war. Maybe such programs should be implemented. Maybe prepared families may facilitate the likelihood of effective and lasting healing.