Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day '08

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, when we remember and recognize all those men and women in uniform who went into harm's way for our country (whether the war was justified or not) and, in many cases, gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation's interests.

Right now, the giant American flag that was presented in my grandfather's memorial service is hanging in my bay window, completely covering the glass there. Grandpa served aboard a supply ship in the Pacific during World War II, but came home safely. My great uncle fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II Europe. He came home, too. I also had a step father who served in the Korean war. A fall from an icy tank injured his back, but he came home. He never really recovered from his back injury, but he had a far harder time dealing with the mental wounds of war. And my lovely young niece is, right now, patrolling the edges of Sadr City in Baghdad. She is shot at often, and the risk of being killed by bullet, mortar, or roadside bomb is very real. I am lucky that none of my relatives has actually died while at war. Let's hope it stays that way. She comes home in August, just before her 23rd birthday.

But the danger doesn't end when they walk through that door to their good ole home. A recent study found that 1 in every 5 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

That's 20% of returning veterans. Of those who seek treatment, only about half receive "minimally adequate" treatment.

The biggest effect of PTSD is depression, with suicide as the worst outcome. According to the Pentagon's own assessment, soldier suicides are five-fold higher than before the wars began, and currently that rate is at its highest ever since the start of the war (SOURCE). At least five soldiers commit suicide each day. That means that the number of suicides may soon outpace the number of combat deaths.

In a recent phone call, my niece commented on how surreal it is, fighting there in Baghdad, where you drive around in a big city, like any big city, where there are cars and people walking around, except there you can expect to be shot at at any moment, and everyone you are supposedly fighting for wants you gone and may be conspiring against you.

This isn't the war my grandfather and great uncle fought, or even my step father. Those we were liberating wanted us there.

So as you enjoy your day off, going boating, cooking hot dogs with the fam, reading blogs by liberal scientists, or simply gathering around the home entertainment system to watch this week's episode of American Gladiator, give a thought to those who have fought for your country, and another for those who are fighting for their lives right now.

Hang in there, my niece. I'll see you soon. Though this holiday is meant to remember our soldiers who have died, my flags fly for the living heroes, too, and one day soon this unjustified war will be over.

Addendum: On a closely related note, May 17 was Armed Forces Day, a day where we celebrate all that our combined armed services do for us (and, I might add, a holiday which is practically unknown or ignored outside of miltary circles, as far as I can tell).

Image taken from HERE.


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