Vets deserve support
The U.S. public will clearly not repeat the mistakes of the Vietnam era, when war veterans returned to a nation that failed to acknowledge their sacrifice and service.
Veterans returning from America’s most recent wars are deservedly thanked and celebrated, personally and often publicly.
But while we now recognize their service, there is another more subtle offense we must also guard against.
When media coverage focuses on veteran suicides, post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual aggression, we run the risk of assuming many, most or all veterans return as damaged or threatening human beings.
A recent study showed that many of the most publicized behavioral problems associated with service are no more common among veterans than among non-military men and women in the same age group.
For instance, it has been publicized that more American soldiers committed suicide, 349, than died in combat, 295, in Afghanistan in 2012.
Some have assumed this is the result of combat and repeated tours of duty.
But a recent study by the American Medical Association found the military suicide rate between 2001 and 2008 little different than the civilian rate.
The U.S. Army and the Institute of Mental Health found 18.5 suicides per 100,000 service members is slightly lower than the 18.8 rate among a demographically similar population of civilians.
The authors found many suicides were the result of financial and relationship problems, often compounded by substance abuse – the same factors often blamed for civilian suicides.
The researchers found no correlation between soldiers who had been deployed and those who had not and suicide rates.
Most returning vets are not ticking time bombs, sexual predators or contemplating suicide.
They are more likely self-disciplined, task-oriented people trained to work in teams, often in need of a chance to start or resume civilian life.
(This is a guest editorial from The Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.