By Stephanie Hickey
In the1980s, Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Born in the U.S.A." On the surface it's a fist-pumping, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthem, affirming that America is the greatest country in the world and to serve and protect it is the greatest honor. But if you get past the energy of the song and listen to the lyrics, you find the truth: a soldier fights for his country; he does his duty, but he doesn't come home to glory or respect. Instead, he comes home and cannot find a job or keep his home. He comes home to end up on the streets.
It doesn't seem like things have changed much today. Everyone is crying, "Support our troops!" and decorating our doors and car bumpers with yellow ribbons. But do we really support our troops? I don't think that we do.
Our troops are young men and women who risk their lives to protect the freedoms and principles we cherish. We readily support them from afar, but how do we treat them when they come home? It seems to be no problem to expand our military budget, but when it comes to government assistance, it is a problem. We don't want to help freeloaders. Many soldiers are coming home wounded, amputated and disabled in the age of IEDs. They want to work, and are not looking for handouts. They only want assistance needed to get their lives back on track.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a much less-talked about problem plaguing our troops. Many soldiers come home and suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It seems to me that the "Support our troops" motto gets quiet and leaves these troops struggling to survive. Much stigma is placed on mental disorders that it's no wonder veterans with PTSD feel such shame. The current statistic stands that every 22 seconds a veteran takes his or her own life.
War is not killing our soldiers en mass. Shame is. Our veterans come home to fight an hidden war. The enemies they face are mental demons--emotional IEDs. Are we, who shout rallying cries while they are away from the home front, rallying for them when they are back on the home front? Or are we reaching out to them to offer help?
I want to see politicians who love to plug how much they love soldiers put into fruition laws that truly help troops. It would be wonderful to have more funding for programs and services that support our veterans as they return to their lives on the home front.
Let's stop singing, "Support our troops" and start doing it.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army, https://flic.kr/p/fpNkEc