In a paper I gave recently at the International Association of Buddhist Studies, in Atlanta, I had occasion to introduce the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. PTSD was a diagnosis fought for politically by veterans of the Vietnam-American war, though in all likelihood it shares a commonality with Shell Shock and other combat and trauma-originated disorders (the very fact that it is a disorder makes it difficult if not impossible to truly classify it).
I discussed this history and then applied it to Cambodia’s post-Khmer Rouge situation. I won’t discuss that here – far too depressing for a day I’m supposed to be writing. Instead, since I discussed the case of Derek Henderson, who threw himself off a bridge at the age of 27. Since I used the example of dead servicemen and women in that talk, I feel obliged to put some of these statistics out here.
Those without relatives or friends serving in active military duty often ignore the wars entirely. Those on the left without such acquaintances often make the horrible mistake of blaming soldiers for the wars they are sent to fight. Neither group, and occasionally even those who do have acquaintances in the military, are usually aware of the relationship between casualties in combat, and casualties at home.
The numbers are hard to come by – like the pictures of flag-draped coffins coming home, they have been deliberately obscured, hidden, and sometimes straightforwardly lied about. Still, it is clear at this point that the following numbers are accurate, at least as of last year:
- Since combat operations began, the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed 4116 deaths in Iraq (this excludes Afghanistan, which recently began to exceed the combat death tolls of Iraq) [link].
- Every year, approximately 12,000 U.S. veterans attempt suicide in the United States. [link]
- Of those attempts, 6256 took their lives ‘successfully’ in 2005. [link]
- That amounts to 120 suicides a week, or 17 a day; this out of a total of 230 attempted suicides a week, or 32 a day. [link]
- In other words, for those who need to be beat about the head to understand this, the soldiers and veterans of the U.S. Military, taken as a single group, have thus far lost approximately 7.5 times more the number of human beings to suicide in the United States, than they have to operations in Iraq.
- And that doesn’t even begin to include the loss of life represented by the deaths of non-U.S. forces, or the civilian deaths, which are documented at between 85,865 – 93,675, in Iraq alone. [link]