Best Way to Honor America’s Veterans: End the Cycle of Mental Health Neglect, Stigma and Crisis
For the 93rd year since the November 11, 1919 commemoration of “the war to end all wars,” the American nation once again pays customary homage to its fallen heroes and the 24 million veterans alive today. Parades, political speeches, presidential laying of wreaths, purchase of flags, and a plethora of media specials on the military all reflect ritualized symbols intended to demonstrate societal appreciation for the many sacrifices made by members of the warrior class.
Veteran’s Day or National Groundhog Day?
On November 11, echoing across American cemeteries, national monuments, city halls, and television consoles, a million impassioned promises are made by politicians and representatives from military and veterans’ agencies, who in unison pledge, “We will never forget those, who have sacrificed so much!” Speech after speech reaffirms the government’s obligation to care for the visible and less visible wounds of war, typically by concluding with Lincoln’s 1865 Inaugural address, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” And on November 12, the patriotic-sounding discourses are neatly folded and filed away for another year as the iron curtain of collective amnesia descends again over the national landscape. For when it comes to investigating the causes of this and every generational crisis of military mental health care, out of sight is truly out of mind.
Honoring Veterans by Ending the Cycle
In short, the single best way for national leaders to genuinely honor the sacrifices of veterans and their families on November 11, 2012 is to step up and end the cycle of mental health crises that have plagued American society since 1919 — by investigating and eliminating the reasons why well-documented psychiatric lessons of war have repetitively been ignored with similarly tragic, yet entirely predictable, outcomes. If there is even a remote chance of ending this costly pattern, the decision to investigate has to be the proverbial “no brainer” — doesn’t it?