At some point in our lives, we’ve all done things that left us full of shame or guilty feelings. What if whatever you did was such a profound violation of your moral compass that you feel undeserving of happiness, unable to forgive yourself, perhaps even unworthy of life? These are the feelings that an untold number of servicemen and women deal with after they leave the war zones. The atrocities witnessed or faced in the combat zone leave emotional wounds that not even time can heal. This can radically change a person and how they deal with the world.
The Iraq Drawdown
After the US government withdrew its troops from Iraq about six years ago, the military came under immense pressure to cut back quickly. As a result, thousands of combat troops were expelled from the force. As a result, a large number of vets were left without access to healthcare services accorded to former service members who leave the force with an honorable discharge. A large number of the expelled lot only had minor infractions on their records. After their expulsion, some committed suicide. To relieve the mental distress and physical pain from the combat, many turned to substance abuse while others wound up homeless.
Three months ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to start providing emergency mental health care to these veterans. The program will be rolled out starting this summer. According to David Shulkin, the VA Secretary, the goal of the program is to save lives. There are about half a million war veterans with less than honorable discharge in the US. Though the government doesn’t know the exact number of vets who are struggling, it became apparent after the Iraq downsize that many of them have acute mental health problems.