Affix a Yellow Ribbon to That Old SUV
Trivia 101 on the Iraq War:
· Has anyone been keeping a recent count of the number of American soldiers that have been killed in Iraq?
If you answered that correctly, you may proceed to the next question:
· How many American soldiers have been wounded in Iraq?
If you’re up on your war news, you may advance:
· What is the estimated percentage of soldiers returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
· How many soldiers have committed suicide in Iraq?
· How many soldiers have committed suicide since returning home?
Finally, for the grand prize:
· How many are estimated to be in the IBC Iraqi Body Count?
(The answers to all of these questions will appear at the bottom of this article).
According to a report buried close to the back of The Kansas City Star this morning, where we receive news about the Iraq War, the Department of Defense has finally released the images taken of flag draped coffins carrying our nation’s dead home from Iraq and Afghanistan. This action is in response to Freedom of Information requests.
The article did not say if these images will be displayed on the news as more coffins arrive home, nor could the article tell us what, if any effect these images will now have on the American public.
As we drive around in our gas guzzling SUV’s (yes, I drive a small SUV too out of necessity to get to our remote cabin, but I want a hybrid), with the yellow magnetic stickers affixed that say, “Support our Troops,” I have to wonder what these people are doing to support our troops.
With memories of Vietnam still prevalent in most people’s minds, does this mean simply not protesting the war and not showing up to spit on soldiers when they return home? For people who oppose the war, does this mean showing up on the Plaza every Sunday afternoon to pray for peace and pray that these soldiers come home alive and in one piece? Or does it just mean draping these words on our cars?
More needs to be done. Although we have a large number of Veteran’s in this country who have seen the horrors of war first hand, America is still woefully uninformed about the real cost of wars, especially when they are usually waged on foreign soil.
For the most part, Americans have gone about their daily lives, maybe taking the time to read newspapers, magazine and international online articles about the war in Iraq. But I guess that what the majority of the public knows about the war is contained in a five-minute spot on the evening news (or worse yet, FOX Views).
Kudos can go to the people who have organized drives to send letters of support to help keep morale high; care packages to send some basic needs our government should be providing them and people who have organized charitable drives for the civilians caught in the cross fire. Kudos can even go to the people who send their daily prayers.
However, there is something more that needs to be done for these Vets when they return home. According to an article in the L.A. Times, many doctors and other professionals within our own VA system are saying that our VA mental health system is overburdened. It was bursting before the Iraq War, mostly with Vietnam Veterans, but that new federal cutbacks, along with the rise in new Veterans seeking treatment is causing an emergency within the system. I’ve read other articles that describe the VA health system as being at the “breaking point” and “ready to collapse.” Dr. William Wishing, a psychiatrist for the VA system in L.A. was quoted in the L.A. Times article as saying: “It’s absurd how much they’ve cut-and it’s absurd how much they continue to cut.” That hospital has went from being able to accommodate 450 psychiatric patients per day down to 90. “They” refers to our lawmakers, most of whom are happy to play “God Bless America” and wear little American flag pins to show their support for our troops during election season.
Is this how we want to “support our troops?” America needs a wake up call and so do our lawmakers. American citizens who claim to support our troops need to demand that these same soldiers are supported when they come home.
The flag draped coffins are only part of the story. We need to open our eyes to the walking wounded as well.
Until this mental health crisis is viewed as an American problem that affects us all, rather than just a Veteran’s problem, or just a government problem, I’m afraid that Americans will continue riding along in their yellow-ribboned-SUV’s, oblivious to the world around them.
American Dead in Iraq as of 4/29/05: 1,574
American Wounded in Iraq: 11,664 (although watchdog groups say this could be as high as 20,000)
Estimated Number of Iraq War Veterans returning with PTSD: 14 percent and climbing
Number of American Soldiers Who Have Committed Suicide in Iraq: 13
Number of Soldiers Who Have Committed Suicide Since Returning Home: 25
Number of Iraqi Civilians Killed Since 2003: 21,000-24,000
(Numbers were gathered from veteransforpeace.org, nuvo.net, iraqbodycount.net)