Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cost of War

Nov. 7-13 issue of O.C. Weekly featured an article "The Scars You Can't See" by Nick Schou. Shou says "As of March 2008, 145 Iraq war veterans have committed suicide." The words of the men Schou interviewed for the article are not for the queasy. Shou tells the story of John Wylie Needham; laid back California surfer turned, by a tour of duty in Iraq, into a young man who savagely beat his 19 year old girlfriend. She died from his attack.

Early in the presidential primary, I was impressed by Senator Obama's work on behalf of veterans. Shou's article gave me new insight to why older military vets with psychiatric problems were going to be re-evaluated. In my blog post, I asked: ever have to prove to a psyche doc that you have hallucinations? Obama seemed to understand the absurdity of requiring the new evaluations, introduced and passed legislation to stop it. Shou's article says "But the volume of new cases has overwhelmed the system." Guy Lamunyon, a Vietnam vet who runs a support group is quoted as saying "They're so back-logged with the new guys they don't have time to go after the old guys."

Perhaps the VA can no longer afford to pay disability benefits and health care to older vets with mental health issues, due to the cost of providing the same care for returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. The cost of war is not just lives lost and dollars spent on weapons, but the cost incurred long after troops returned home. Or shortly as in the case of Needham.

Another Vietnam vet Shou interviewed is Walter Lee Treadwell. He was having nightmares and tried to talk to his wife about the war, in 1995. Treadwell says "She left me a few weeks before the rent was due and I have been homeless ever since." It is estimated that about `1/3 of the homeless population are veterans. His father was career military. Treadwell said "He was mean drunk who used to beat up on my mom." Another cost of war, or military training, is the number of abusive husbands and fathers it produces. The young men (and women) learned strict discipline and carry that into marriages. They often demand perfection from spouse and children, and are rigid in their expectations.

I corresponded online with one teen, a cutter, who did not see that perhaps her cutting had to do with her military father's perfectionism, until I suggested that might have been the root of her problem. Or another cost of war.

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