This Memorial Day, Remember the Casualties at Home – Kevin E. Pittack Jr. – Medium
In 1971, singer-songwriter John Prine released one of his career-defining songs, “Sam Stone”, a song about a Vietnam veteran who returned home with a heroin/morphine addiction, not an uncommon situation for many of the young men who returned home from the overseas war. Prine’s song, one of the first mainstream songs that tackled the issue, remains culturally relevant today as the issue has not only remained but has exploded along with cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) throughout the nearly two decades of conflict the United States has engaged in through the still young 21st century.
Each Memorial Day, Americans gather for parades, assemblies, and holiday weekend events in order to pay their respects to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in service to their country, but it is time that the American people also pay tribute to those who have lost their lives once they’ve returned home, those who may have left the battlefield but never returned from their personal battles. Mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction, government mismanagement of veterans’ affairs, as well as government mismanagement of foreign affairs that leads to unnecessary and costly conflicts, both in terms of human lives as well as economic impact, should all be reflected upon and acted upon through activism and private charity. Memorial Day is the one day on the calendar when Americans should recognize these truths.
· It is estimated that between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD per year. (US Dept. of Veteran Affairs)
· As of 2016, it was reported that nearly 40,000 veterans were homeless across America. (National Alliance to End Homelessness)
· 10% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a problem with drugs or alcohol. (US Department of Veteran Affairs)
· Almost 20 percent of military men and women who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD, depression, or traumatic brain injury, all of which are conditions which predispose to addiction. Mental health conditions and substance abuse are the leading cause of hospitalizations among U.S. troops. (Addiction Resource)
Memorial Day is promoted by the media, cable news talking heads, and politicians as the day set aside to honor the fallen, those who served with nobility and honor in the American armed services, but the reality is that those same government officials, aided by the media and talking heads who push their agenda to the masses, put men and women of the armed forces in position to suffer these consequences, and they do not take that responsibility nearly as seriously as they should.
The hawkish bellicosity of Democrats toward Russia, Syria, and Venezuela are just as strident as Republican voices that seek conflict, militarily and economically, with Iran and China, but neither side takes a moment to reflect on the carnage that will be inflicted on the men and women of the armed forces, not just within war zones but also when they return home from the horrors of war. Just because these soldiers volunteered for military service does not mean that they are toy soldiers to be positioned around the globe like a game of Risk at the whim of a government that only seeks to expand its footprint of influence across the globe.
Each year, we honor those who died in conflict, but, this Memorial Day, please remember those who became casualties at home, and try to help those that are still able to be aided by our charity, good will, and understanding.