Disgraceful is a mild term to use when addressing the health issues facing our military personnel fighting a war that has no solution and appears to have no end. Over one million service members in the Active and Reserve Components of the U.S. military have been deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), of whom 449,261 have been deployed more than once. That is almost HALF of the overall troop deployment – sent back for a second or even third or fourth time.
As of May 2007, more than 3,700 service members have died, primarily from hostile action, and more than 26,000 troops have been wounded. Psychological concerns are significantly higher among those with repeated deployments, which is a rapidly growing group. The Pentagon’s most recent data from the Post-Deployment Health Re-Assessment, which is administered to service members 90 to 120 days after returning from deployment, indicate that 38 percent of Soldiers and 31 percent of Marines report psychological symptoms. Among members of the National Guard, the figure rises to 49 percent.
But health issues, psychological and physical, do not end with our military personnel; psychological concerns among family members of deployed and returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans, while not yet fully quantified, are also increasing. The Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health (MHTF) arrived at a single finding underpinning all others: the Military Health System not only lacks the fiscal resources and the fully-trained personnel to fulfill its mission to support psychological health in peacetime but also lacks such resources and personnel to fulfill the enhanced requirements imposed during times of conflict.
Bush arrogantly marched into war with no plan other than the disgusting “shock and awe” spectacle meant not only to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein and his never-to-be-found weapons of mass destruction but also to demonstrate to the world that George Bush was the very epitome of a swaggering, Texas cowboy, guns ablazin’. As he strode so smugly and self-confidently across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, those who opposed the war had to wonder “what hath he wrought?”
And, now we know. After over 1,000,000 deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, 3700 American soldiers killed, and more than 26,000 wounded, Bush has created a world far more dangerous than ever in which thousands of physically and psychologically wounded American veterans are not being provided the short-term and long-term care they were promised when they enlisted. It is a world in which they and their families are left to cope with Bush’s disgraceful betrayal.