Easing the Pain of War

Michael Anthony comes from a military family - his grandfather, father, four brothers and a sister were all service members. It was nothing extraordinary for him to enlist, and he went off to Iraq as an operating room medic. But what he discovered about war and the men and women who suffer through it was a shock - a daily horror he chronicled in his journal. His story is captured through his journal entries in "Mass Casualties: A Young Medic's True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq," published by Adams Media this month.

GUEST BLOGGER: Michael Anthony

As a writer, I could paint such a vivid picture of war that you will feel you are there. But I don't want to do that right now. I don't want you to have to feel the pain of war, although there is no better way to understand it than through the pain -- emotional, spiritual, physical and mental pain. Instead, I present you with the following facts -- and if these facts are painful, too, well, trust that in the end it will be worth it to you -- and to our returning veterans - for you to know them.

Returning Home:

As many as one in five veterans returning from Afghanistan have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- and that's only among those who admit to having a problem.

Five active duty service members attempt suicide every day, and as many as eighteen veterans kill themselves a day.

The "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" won an Emmy award last month in investigative journalism for a series of newscasts exposing officials that covered up suicide numbers in the department of Veteran Affairs.

The War:

I recently read a great story about the invasion of Iraq that painted a picture of the American Soldier as hero. Even the death and destruction that was portrayed showed the American Soldier handling it respectfully -- and heroically.

Unfortunately, that's where the story ends. Few people know the other half of the story. What happened when those soldiers went home long after the invasion? It hasn't been pretty. Besides the suicides and suicide attempts, some soldiers have been kicked out of the military because of struggles with drug and alcohol addictions.

The Answer:

If the stories about the strong, heroic soldier are true, then we shouldn't have those ugly statistics I quoted. But the facts exist, and it's up to us to speak the truth and find ways to help our veterans.

The Army Times reports that the one consistent cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is exposure therapy, where veterans meet up and share their deepest, darkest stories about the pain of war with those who have experienced similar horrors.

Our returning veterans need our help. It starts with our understanding at home -- an understanding of the whole picture, not just the glory. Stand by the veterans in your life. Get the whole picture -- and try to ease the pain of war.

By Steven E. Levingston |  October 16, 2009; 5:30 AM ET Politics , Steven Levingston
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