Mental health is the new war for our veterans

The month of March is worthy of a somber salute.
Apr 10, 2014


There wasn’t a big celebration, but March was the first month that there were no military deaths in Afghanistan since January 2007.

Any celebration would have been bittersweet, since military operations have claimed the lives of 2,176 U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and 4,474 in Iraq, along with countless injuries.
For the first month since February 2003, no U.S. troops died in Afghanistan or Iraq. That’s 133 months — more than a decade.
The last convoy of American troops left Iraq in December 2011. And even though the role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has shifted away from combat and is focused on training and advising Afghan forces, we know that instability is always a threat in that country.

All we can do is keep our fingers crossed in hopes that we can pull Americans out of that part of the world as soon as possible.

But the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a new war at home.

News out of Fort Hood, Texas, recently tainted the good news of no deaths in March. Military authorities report a soldier, Spc. Ivan Lopez, killed three people at the fort in a rampage that also wounded 16 others before he put a gun to his head and took his own life.

Authorities have been reporting that Lopez never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq and had not shown any risk prior to the shootings. However, he was being treated for depression, anxiety and other problems.

Mental health issues are far too common among the hundreds, if not thousands, of our military personnel returning home. Many others have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, or upon returning to the states.

"We have very strong evidence that he had a medical history that indicates an unstable psychiatric or psychological condition," base senior officer Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said. "We believe that to be a fundamental underlying cause."

Our war at home is to find answers to mental illness and how to stop tragedies like Fort Hood before they occur.

This is our new war and one we all need to get behind.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



It’s nothing new it's always been, just the press coverage comes and goes. Combat and combat support units have churned out an endless line of ticking time bombs for many a decade.
Nobody escapes the fact that some measure of PTS will affect your life, your marriage and your mental health. it’s not a question of IF but WHEN "your" breakdown will occur and no matter how lenient or severe when it happens the important thing is to admit you need help and deal with it properly only then can you expect recovery to full functioning alert status minus the little ticks that haunt here and there but be certain, every VET returns home changed forever and not all bad ways mostly good, just remember the emotional meat grinder we went through for years and be patient; we may look and act like warriors on the outside but inside is sometimes in turmoil over what we heard, saw and did in the name of duty. Our honor and pride is carried in the lifelong weight on our shoulders we happily bear for the people and country we love…and for those in other countries we never meet and if asked pretty much down to a man we would do it all again if called.

Mystic Michael

Is it any wonder? We send these folks off to far-flung areas of the globe, where they're subjected to some of the most hellish experiences this world can inflict on them - some of them for three or four or five tours of duty in a row. The only way they can survive - either physically or mentally - is to adapt to living in hell.

The enormous physical and psychological strain continues to build - year after year. Yet the macho culture of the military encourages soldiers to keep it all bottled up; ridiculing those as "weak" who dare admit that they need help.

When finally they're sent home - even if they have managed to avoid coming home horribly maimed - they're ill-prepared to resume their civilian lives. Many of them have to fight tooth and nail for the benefits they've been promised. Hypocrites in Congress praise them as heroes...while gutting the Veterans Affairs budget (in favor of yet another boondoggle Pentagon weapons system).

Those who don't have support networks of family or friends are basically cut loose to fend for themselves; alone with the tortured memories of the things they've done...and the things that have been done to them. They've become a mere shell of their former selves. They can't function, can't hold a job, can't take care of themselves. So they start to slip away, become homeless, living under bridges and highway overpasses, surviving on the margins of society...until the day comes when some of them will just take a gun, and put themselves out of their own misery.

What a waste of humanity! And for what? For the sake of some Neocon power grab? This world is a sick, twisted and perverted place. We should be ashamed at the things we allow to happen to our own people! Our friends, neighbors and family members!


You are absolutely right, MM. The latest attack on vets by Senate Republicans who were told, by the Koch Bros-Heritage Action group, to block the passage of the latest omnibus veterans bill is especially egregious. They asked our soldiers to fight in deployment after deployment, in horribly dangerous conditions, but now that the wars are winding down, and those soldiers are returning home and are swamping veterans facilities, these same Republicans are no longer interested in supporting them. Or I should say, have a problem with funding a $21 Billion over 10 years proposal, when they had so problem with expanding and making permanent agricultural subsidies to Big Agri Businesses.

Just last month, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on passage of a bill that would expand the number of health care facilities, improve educational benefits, and other proposals that would benefit returning veterans....

Tri-cities realist

Yep, never mind that that bill would swamp the VA and actually make things worse. It sounds and feels good, so lets do it!

Mystic Michael

Evidence? Facts and/or figures?

Tri-cities realist

Please take your beef up with Hillary, she voted for the wars, and apparently doesn't like to provide the security that those in stae department requested. "What difference does it make!!"

Mystic Michael

OK, several points:

1) Hillary voted for the wars when she served in the US Senate. But she was not part of the Bush/Cheney regime that mongered for those wars, beat the drum ceaselessly for those wars, and deliberately lied to the Congress (including to Senator Clinton herself), the media, and the American people in order to make a phony, trumped up case for those wars.

2) Hillary does not now, nor has she ever has been, in a position of authority over the VA. She served as Secretary of State - NOT as the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

3) This news piece is about veteran's issues. It is NOT about US foreign policy.

4) One more time - and for the record - the US House of Representatives, with a solid Republican majority at the time, steadfastly REFUSED to fund the State Department's budget request for embassy security, well in advance of the Benghazi attacks; cutting it by $500 million. As early as February 2011, Secretary Clinton was publicly on record in opposition to the Republican cuts to the embassy security budget, warning at the time that they “will be detrimental to America’s national security." Republicans didn't give a damn. They had a political point to make. This is a matter of public record. Look it up:

5) Lastly, if you are so desperate for rhetorical advantage that you will not hesitate to yank completely out of context a remark that Secretary Clinton made while she was being relentlessly badgered by Senator Ron Johnson (R) over an insignificant, irrelevant detail, then your case against her is indeed weak. Very, very weak indeed.

I would suggest that your brand of Tri-Cities "Realism" is nothing remotely of the sort. Until you should reach a point where you're prepared to start shooting straight and cease engaging in these kinds of cheap shots and distortions of reality, it would be better for you to post under the name "Tri-Cities Polemicist". Or maybe "Tri-Cities Sophist".


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