No Veteran Left Behind

No veteran should be left behind, or forgotten and this week, we take another step to ensure that never happens.

On June 14, we are honoring those who have died causes related to their service in Vietnam but whose deaths do not meet the Department of Defense’s criteria for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The annual In Memory Day ceremony is held on Flag Day. This year, from 10 am. to noon, we are hosting more than 600 family and friends on the East Knoll to honor 96 individuals.

Many of this year’s honorees died of cancers that are believed to be connected to Agent Orange. Some died of issues attributed to post traumatic stress and some committed suicide.

We will honor them during the ceremony, but there is more to be done.

June is PTSD Awareness Month for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The National Center for PTSD is working to raise awareness of post traumatic stress, its causes, effects and treatment. The site has resources for those experiencing post traumatic stress, as well as friends and family members to help them spot the signs of PTS and also how to help.

Today, the DoD broke ground on $10 million research and treatment center for brain injuries, post traumatic stress and other war-related injuries, at Fort Belvoir, Va. The facility is a satellite of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Bethesda, Md. It’s the first of several planned satellite locations of the Intrepid Center.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study was conducted by the federal government in the mid to late 1980s to better understand the psychological effect of serving in the Vietnam War. Among Vietnam veterans at the time of the study, about 15 percent of men and 9 percent of women exhibited post traumatic stress. About 30 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported experiencing post traumatic stress at some point in their life following the war. Fourteen years after this study, many of the veterans were interviewed again and a substantial proportion continued to experience post traumatic stress.

The VA has also recognized certain cancers and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides that were used during military services. You can learn more about the use of Agent Orange during Vietnam and its affects here.

A continuing and growing problem for the military is suicide. Last week, Time reported that there had been 154 suicides of active duty troops in the first 155 days of the year—the fastest pace in the nation’s decade of war.

A 1980s study by the Centers for Disease Control indicated 1.7 suicides among Vietnam veterans for every one suicide by non-Vietnam veterans for the first five years after discharge. Suicides among Vietnam veterans have said to be 50,000 to 100,000.

These stories are tragic and hard to talk about, but these issues are real and just as we owe it to our veterans to honor them during ceremonies, we must also honor them by helping them when they return from war. Visit the links included throughout this blog post to find resources for family, friends and veterans who may be facing any of these challenges. There are ways to help veterans in your life and if you don’t know any veterans, learn about the challenges they face and find ways to support their networks in your community.

More resources:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: offers 24/7 free and confidential, nationwide network of crisis centers. Veterans can press 1 with confidentiality and privacy
800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors:
800-959-TAPS (800-959-8277) or taps.org

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