We Keep Paying the Cost of Our Wars
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Lance Corporal Lucey's death. In that decade, the number of suicides among active members of the military and veterans hasn't abated. In fact the 349 military suicides in 2012 exceeded the 295 U.S. military members who died in combat in Afghanistan last year. Most suicides occurred among personnel between 18 and 24 years old. Meanwhile, roughly 6,500 former military personnel killed themselves last year, which equates to one suicide every 80 minutes.
The June 2012 Monthly Medical Surveillance Report published by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center directly addresses military suicide and notes that annual incident diagnoses of mental disorders among active service members have increased by roughly 65% percent in the last 12 years. That doesn't just go away when service members are discharged, either. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that roughly 13% of the overall U.S. homeless population are veterans, with 50% experiencing severe mental illness and 75% struggling with substance abuse.
Younger vets from recent wars make up approximately 10% of that veteran homeless population and 31% of all veteran suicides. As we mentioned three years ago while telling the story of 21-year-old Army Specialist Adam Kuligowski -- who took his rifle into a bathroom stall at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and shot himself on on April 6, 2009 -- often the very drugs soldiers are using to combat depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder are the ones interacting with other drugs and pushing military personnel toward suicide.
This is what those who've fought our nation's most recent wars have had to deal with. This is the collective price they pay, and it hasn't diminished in recent years. On this Veterans Day and every other within the last decade or so, an increasing number of veterans are finding themselves pushed to the brink as the infrastructure of VA facilities, clinics, doctors, shelters, safe house and other facilities do what they can to keep them stable or, at the very least, alive.