June 27, 2011 ~ Today has been set aside as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is said to affect anywhere from 11% to 20% of the OIF/OEF veteran population. After spending the weekend attending the “Visible Honor for Invisible Wounds” rally in Washington, DC, I would have to say that the statisticians within the Department of Veterans Affairs are incorrect. The percentage is certainly far higher.
Hosted by dedicated members of the Stop the Loss Foundation, Visible Honor for Invisible Wounds, took place Saturday at Upper Senate Park on the grounds of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. While attending the event, we heard many speakers and met many combat veterans and family members directly affected by PTSD. We also met military leaders, veterans, doctors, and representatives of the nonprofit sector who are tirelessly working to create programs of awareness and support for those who live each day with PTSD. Over the next several days we will be sharing about some of the people we met and their accomplishments, as well as what is currently being done, and what still needs to be done, to support our combat veterans and their family members who must live with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress.
Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating June 27 as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota sponsored the resolution in honor of North Dakota Army National Guard Sgt. Joe Biel, who took his own life following two tours in Iraq.
I, for one, am very glad to see that there has been a day set aside to bring the nation’s attention to an issue that carries much stigma and is largely ignored. I am also equally as disappointed to say that, though it is a huge step in the right direction, it is simply not enough. Bringing awareness to an issue is not enough unless it is accompanied by actions which lead to solving the associated problems.
We have heard our nation’s military leaders state countless times in the past few years that there is no longer any stigma associated with PTSD. They encourage those suffering with the problem to step forward and ask for help. These leaders have all the right things to say, however, empty words are not enough to tackle this growing epidemic that is quickly gripping our military families as well as our hometown communities.
Suicide rates amongst our veteran communities as well as our active duty troops has increased over the past several years and, despite all the talk we have heard over the past year, the Army’s latest suicide report indicates that numbers are not decreasing. The saddest part about these reports, is that what is viewed as statistics by most, is a report of lives lost and families shattered.
I had the opportunity to speak directly with a military leader who has much to do with plan implementation and I was quick to point out that there was a huge disconnect between those at the top who drew up the plans and those at the bottom who were supposed to be receiving services without stigma. I look forward to sharing about our conversation later this week.
While we have been most well known for sending care packages to our deployed troops, Military Missions has also been very involved in support for our combat veterans and their families living with PTSD over the past two years. As we move forward, we will also be featuring information about the upcoming PTSD Basic Training Seminar coming up in August, as well as our new support group for those with the invisible wounds of war.
It’s time for all of us to get involved and help the families of our military and our veterans. At this time, we have a record breaking number of troops on our list requesting care packages. Add to that the fact that we are supporting the Kentucky National Guard, who is about to deploy the largest number of troops since WWII. Every guardsman leaves behind a family who needs our support.
We have combat veterans returning home to our communities after multiple deployments from ten years of a war that seems to have no end. The reality is every single returning veteran has some degree of PTSD, and many have traumatic brain injuries and/or physical wounds which require care.
Only one percent of our population has been serving in the Armed Forces. It’s time for the other 99% to step up and do something for this nation. Let’s start thinking outside the box and find new ways we can all make lives better for those who have worn the uniform. If you have no idea where to start, just keep following our blog. We will give you some great ideas on how you can reach out and make a difference in the life of an American hero.