Needing You

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs believe that more than 6000 veterans will commit suicide in 2010.

According to an article in Foreign Policy, an average of one soldier a day committed suicide in June.

When Barack Obama spoke to Disabled Veterans of America (DVA) in Georgia on August 2, he addressed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), calling it “a pain like no other” and continued with:

… the hopelessness that has led too many of our troops and veterans to take their own lives. Today, I want to say to anyone who is struggling—do not suffer in silence. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for support—it’s a sign of strength. Your country needs you.

“Your country needs you.” Yes, the United States of American needs you.

Your country needs you for imperialist wars and occupations.

Your country needs you to secure the resources of other countries.

Your country needs you to risk your life to ensure that the power elite will remain the power elite.

Your country needs you to use weapons banned by international law.

Your country needs you to keep your mouth shut.

Your country needs you to inspire terrorism.

Your country needs you to replace the fallen.

Your country needs you, needs you, needs you—for exploitation.

Imagine if Obama were struck by a bolt of honesty and said all of the above instead of the usual 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, terrorists, insurgents, and al- Qa’ida. Oh, and 9/11.

Imagine if White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had admitted to Obama’s Bushian agenda instead of calling the president’s progressive critics “the Professional Left” and suggesting that we, who don’t hesitate to condemn Barry’s compromises, are “crazy” and, thus, should “be drug-tested.”

Candor, lost among mainstream politicos, could terminate a pathology that has plunged this country to the depths of immorality. If forthrightness were articulated, all parents and loved ones of troops wounded or killed in war, finally, might question, as Cindy Sheehan did: “For what noble cause?” Those who wear the uniform might question, as well. Might even expose war crimes as PFC Bradley Manning, who didn’t keep his mouth shut, recently did.

For what noble cause are they returning with PTSD? For what noble cause are they killing? For what noble cause are they dying? For what noble cause are they committing suicide?

I remember hearing a military mom’s poignant speech at an antiwar rally. She described a son who returned from combat a changed man, someone whose behavior she didn’t recognize.

People cope with agony differently. I just read about a soldier who completed suicide after serving in Iraq. His parents, now, are working for an easier navigation of mental health care and attempting to eliminate the stigma associated with asking for psychological therapy. Certainly, this is honorable. But more is necessary. A system that assaults the psyche, the system that either emotionally damages or physically slaughters must end.

I’m finished with hearing, “He died doing what he loved.” As if this statement lays the dead to rest, along with the dialogue about war’s reality. I want to ask how someone can love dying for lies. How can anyone love the sights and smells of death? Of seeing children whose flesh is melted by explosives? How?

When will people become so outraged that they will identify the problem—a pattern that sends young men and women thousands of miles away to massacre other human beings and risk being killed for lies? A structure that forever alters survivors.

We must teach our children to value life. We must teach them that no one wins in war. Instead of calling for more suicide hotlines, mothers, fathers, and spouses of soldiers, in fact, each and every one of us, should acknowledge the hideous truth of war.

President Obama wants our troops to seek help because his administration is “making major investments in awareness, outreach, and suicide prevention.”

The noble solution, obviating the need for military mental health maintenance, is war prevention. Its synonym is peace.

MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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