Friday, May 30, 2008

Suicides & Guns Messy Result of Long War

I’m going to make an observation based solely my own early impressions and not factual data regarding news reports of suicides and murders in the 70’s and 80’s by Vietnam vets. Again, I don’t know if the facts would back up my detached recollections of that time period, or it’s a case of selective memory. I personally knew some very messed up vets back then, and because many were forced to go because of the draft, I was sympathetic to their treatment in the press and by war protesters. I feel uncomfortable writing from the gut and not from well documented research.

My main fear is that we might see a repeat of the past, (the past I remember) if we don’t do something to prevent it today. Regardless of whether my impressions are right or wrong, the following stories don’t bode well in dealing with this public safety issue.

Due to lack of money, southwestern Wisconsin’s Boscobel Area Health Care Hospital will close its suicide care unit, while at the same time AP is reporting soldier suicides are hitting its highest rate. This is a big area of Wisconsin, and could be a nightmare for treatment and access.

Law enforcement and mental health agencies have no where else to go locally
to fill the oncoming void. The hospital lost $300,000 over the last year because
reimbursement rates from Medicare, Medicaid and surrounding counties, did not
cover their costs. Where are the five to six patients a day going to

Add to that, the Veterans Administrations attempt to short change returning troops by not testing them for PTSD.
According to AP, “The US Army says 115 soldiers on active duty committed
suicide in 2007, the most in one year since the service began keeping records in
1980. Nearly 1,000 soldiers attempted suicide. Colonel Elspeth Ritchie said,
"Mainly it is the long time and multiple deployments away from
, the exposure to really terrifying and horrifying things,
the easy availability of loaded weapons."

On the issue of “the easy availability of loaded weapons,” many Republican state houses across the country actually want to allow soldiers to legally carry firearms because of their service and weapons training.

Call me crazy, but I sense a dangerous outcome for returning vets, their families and local communities. The above short sighted actions, withdrawing treatment and accessible weaponry, will result in many unintended deaths and social instability and tragedy.

As for Republican tax cutters and vet short changers, maybe Scrooges was right after all: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

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