I survived combat in Iraq and a suicide attempt at home. But many veterans aren't so lucky.
January 16, 2019
Sometimes, trauma can be more deadly than war itself. But the VA's existing mental health services are woefully inadequate for a growing problem.
I'm supposed to be a statistic.
Army soldiers who had been in the Iraq War prepare to fly home to Fort Hood, Texas, from Kuwait in 2011. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images,)On July 14, 2012, drowning in grief and guilt, I tried to kill myself. Like so many veterans, I had found civilian life desperately difficult. War had drained me of joy. The sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield had been relentlessly looping in my head. The suffering seemed endless. And so, thinking there were no other options of escape, I turned to suicide.
Luckily, I survived. I avoided becoming one of the 20 veterans who kill themselves every day in this country. But I also witnessed firsthand all the ways that our nation's mental health resources fail our fighting men and women. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and the military simply aren't equipped to properly treat sick vets. We must do better.
I enlisted in the military on Sept. 11, 2001. My first major combat experience came on a deployment to Sadr City, Iraq, in the winter of 2005, the apex of the insurgency.
War inflicts permanent psychic scars on survivors. Scrubbing a friend's flesh out of a Bradley reconnaissance vehicle, packing up the cold clothes of a new dad to ship home to his family, pulling tortured corpses out of a water treatment facility — the trauma from these experiences is deep and lasting.
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