Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sounding off in regard to what appears to be an upcoming conflict with Syria. Our in-house veterans affairs correspondent, Iraq War Veteran and author Kevin E Lake has done the same, in remarking that he sees “any military action in Syria as yet another huge profit center for civilian contracting companies and other U.S. corporations, but a loss for America in blood, credibility, and assets and resources that would be better spent caring for the American people and an already vast generation of veterans whose needs are not being completely met.”
Since returning from Iraq in 2009, Lake has switched directions in his writing style, having before written mostly paranormal fiction, including Amazon’s recent number one ghost novel in customer satisfaction, “From the Graves of Babes” in order to address issues relating to veterans, particularly the massive suicide epidemic in the U.S.
Currently, 22 veterans a day are taking their own lives, while the U.S. government seems to look away from the issue instead of addressing it and dealing with it.
In Lake’s novel “Off Switch” which highlights the suicide issue, Lake points out what he saw with his own eyes in the military that he feels is at the root of the problem. In an excerpt from the author’s afterward, Lake points out much of what was happening in Iraq while he was there, and he feels things will merely go the same way in Syria, should U.S. forces invade:
*From “Off Switch”
At this point in time, the largest battle the U.S. military faces is not on some far away battlefield in the Middle East, but within its own ranks. Broken and disturbed soldiers who are angry, depressed, and confused, are killing themselves in historical record numbers.
For the first time in world history, more soldiers from a certain war or wars, (the wars in the Middle East) have died from suicide than have died on the battlefield.
And the National Guard and Army Reserve suicide numbers are not even being included among the Army suicide rate numbers being given to the public!
Smarter men and women than me are addressing the issue, and for the sake of my brothers and sisters in arms, I hope they figure it out. I might offer a few simple suggestions, but as I was never anything more than a lower enlisted man (E-4 specialist) who never knew my place (according to my former National Guard leadership who didn’t feel I was worthy of receiving pay to care for my family my first four months in Iraq, or receive medical care when I was seriously and painfully injured), my views may not carry much weight, or even be very good, but here they are:
1- When the war is over, go home. By the time my unit deployed to Iraq, we were simply occupying a defeated nation and everyone on both sides knew it. So many vets have deployed, many of them repeatedly, merely to spend a year of their lives escorting and protecting civilian contractors who are piling up profits selling the U.S. Army and foreign governments anything from concrete to soda-pops, while their personal lives are falling to pieces back home.
Yes, we enlisted. We volunteered. But it was to fight a threat against America, and to defend others in foreign lands who do not possess the ability to defend themselves, not to watch publicly traded companies increase quarterly profits consistently to please shareholders, or to suffer at the hands of abusive, toxic leadership who develop prison mentalities, perhaps out of sheer boredom as much as anything else.
2- Perhaps the men and women who have fought overseas should be allowed to seek medical and mental healthcare treatment in the private sector, beginning immediately upon returning from deployment, and then bill the Veterans Affairs Administration who seems, at times, too busy with red tape and protocol to provide timely care themselves.
Delay, deny and hope that I die?
If the private sector is good enough for the public, then why isn’t it good enough for the troops? Especially when the military and government sides seems to have been able to do all they can in special cases (“…we’ve all been telling him to just kill himself,” the N.C.O. said as we headed to the memorial service (of a soldier in our unit who’d committed suicide)).
Less than one half of one percent of the American people ever serves in the U.S. armed forces. Less than half of those ever deploy, even during a time of war. These men and women deserve the best upon returning home, if they are fortunate enough to do so.
3- And finally, it has been noted that substance abuse is the second most common risk factor for suicide after major depression and bipolar disorder, and many people who suffer from P.T.S.D. also suffer from depression. So, add to a veteran’s depression drug addiction, via the small, private pharmacies the VA is handing out to most veterans suffering from P.T.S.D., and especially those who suffer from any physical pain, and it is pretty easy to see, as I hope I have made painstakingly clear in this novel, that you end up with veterans now suffering from depression and drug addiction.
This adds up to suicide waiting to happen.
I’m not a doctor or a social worker, so I am not technically qualified to give advice in this regard, but after my own experiences I am certainly free to give my own opinion.
Not to mention, I spent a year in hell earning that right and giving everyone else the right to do the same.
*Kevin E Lake is an Iraq War Veteran and an author. All of his novels are available on Amazon.