Veterans leave part of them behind

“I left my soul in Iraq,” she said. “I’ve seen things no woman should ever see.” She is a military veteran with several tours of duty spent in the Middle East. Despite the PTSD and other issues she has endured, she has no regrets and would do it again. There has been a cost for her willingness to serve her country. When sirens scream near her home – ambulances, fire trucks and police cruisers, and especially fire alarms that ring throughout the community — she panics. “Just hold my hand until it stops,” she tells her husband. And sometimes she isn’t sure she can keep going. But she does.

“I can’t say that I understand,” says her friend. “I don’t. But I appreciate you for what you have done to protect my family and myself, your willingness to do something that I could not.” And when this veteran feels that she can’t cope with a crisis, she does. Her friend tells her, “You’ve been through worse. You’ve been on the front lines. You can handle this.” And she comes through the challenge with strength and determination.

This veteran is not alone. And she doesn’t discuss her military experiences with everyone. But she will tell you, “Don’t tell me you understand what I’ve been through unless you have been there and gone through it because if you haven’t, you don’t understand.”

The most critical issues facing veterans and military families, advises SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), are suicide risk, trauma and homelessness. Referring to the 2014 Veterans Health Administration Report, 22 veterans die by suicide daily. Three out of five of them also suffered a mental health condition.

Serving in combat situations affects each soldier: watching combat buddies become wounded or die, being deployed time after time and military sexual violence. These things affect the service man or woman, their families and their communities.

PTSD is a prominent disorder among military service men and women. It is not a sign of weakness, advises the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD often results because of situations or events beyond the person’s control.

It is estimated that, in the general U.S. population, seven or eight people out of 100 will have PTSD at some time in their lifetime. The VA advises that, in the military, 10 out of every 100 women develop PTSD; men, four out of 100. It varies depending on where they served. Examples that were given include:

Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in which 11 to 20 out of 100 service personnel have been affected by PTSD.

Gulf War: 12 out of every 100.

Vietnam War: 15 out of every 100. It is estimated that 30 of every 100 Vietnam veterans have had PTSD at some time.

The job each man and woman does in the service, the politics related to the war, where the war takes place and the kind of enemy faced all play a role in the effects on each individual’s mental health because it adds to the stress they already are feeling.

The VA reports that 23 out of 100 women reported sexual assault when serving in the military. Fifty-five women out of 100 and 38 men out of 100 have experienced sexual harassment during their military service.

Memorial Day is a celebration of the lives lost in making sacrifices for their people, their nation. Some veterans left their souls behind and still struggle with the effects of their military experiences. They need the encouragement and support of the communities they call home.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.