I believe that we have a special obligation to veterans and that as a country we are failing in that obligation. No matter what our politics or our beliefs about the legitimacy or morality of the Iraq and Afghan wars, young men and women have risked their lives to serve our country. Over 5,269 of these young heroes have paid the ultimate price since 2001. Many more have suffered crippling wounds, some of which are not always evident after multiple deployments to a war zone that has no boundaries of safety.
It is estimated that over 30% of those who have served and survived in the Iraq-Afghan theaters suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Medical science is only now beginning to explain the neurochemical changes in brain structure and function that create the symptoms of PTSD, but that is small consolation to the families of veterans who have to continue to live with a brain that is still in combat years after they return.
One of the fatal symptoms of PTSD is suicide, and we are currently experiencing an epidemic of veterans dying from suicide. Every day 22 veterans commit suicide. Every day. In the 13 years that we have been in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan we have averaged an 1 combat death per day. The truth is that if the media reported that 23 Americans a day are dying from combat-related wounds, then maybe a few more Americans would take notice and force Congress to do something.
Project 22 is an effort by Iraq-Afghanistan veterans to increase awareness and support for medical services and outreach to returning veterans. They can get nowhere in Congress, due to House GOP resistance to funding, so they are asking President Obama to sign an executive order prioritizing the issue of preventing suicides among veterans. I think we should all send a message to the White House asking for this executive order.
It is the least we can do.