Friday, March 28, 2014
From a Congress that won't pay for their food stamps.
There have been veterans in our capitol as long as there has been a military but this week they are gathering for mission that could mean life or death for many if their brothers and sisters.
Former Marine Cpl. Tyler Tannahill left his home in Overland Park, Kan., to spend this week lobbying lawmakers in Washington to honor four fellow Marines who served alongside him in Iraq and Afghanistan but who took their own lives.But they have come to face a Congress tightly in the grip of a group whose motto seems to be "Millions For Defense Contractors, Not A Penny For Veterans". To the Republican/Teabaggers, veterans have served their purpose and can now be thrown away.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Jeff Hensley, a jet fighter pilot in Iraq, joined the “Storm the Hill” mission to help the suicidal vets who seek treatment at the equine therapy center he runs in Frisco, Texas.
The two men accompanied dozens of other veterans from the nation’s two post-9/11 wars for a push to get Congress and President Barack Obama to take more aggressive steps to counter a historically high suicide rate in their ranks.
“Veterans’ suicide rate has been increasing at an alarming pace over the course of the more than 12 years of these wars,” Hensley told McClatchy. “We feel like it’s time to do something about it.”
With 22 veterans a day taking their lives, according to projections by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the former Iraq and Afghanistan troops met with more than 100 lawmakers on Capitol Hill, attended sessions with senior officials at the Pentagon, the White House and the VA and participated in mental health panels.
In the unseasonal cold of an early spring morning Thursday, with patches of snow still dotting the grass, the group planted more than 1,800 miniature flags on the National Mall, between the Capitol and the White House, to symbolize the number of veterans believed to have taken their own lives this year alone.
While not all of the suicide victims fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, veterans of those conflicts say that the nature of the two wars, the multiple deployments required by a volunteer force and the rough transitions to a still-uncertain civilian economy have made such tragedies more frequent.
“There are no real defined battlelines,” Tannahill said, describing the kind of battlefield that many veterans experienced. “There’s no front. There are no World War II-type enemies in front of us (or who) hold the ground behind us. So there are constant threats all around you. It’s a high-stress environment throughout the entire theater. And the longer you’re exposed to those high stresses, the more deployments you go on, the greater the odds that you’re going to have difficult personal issues.”
The problems have been exacerbated by the end of the U.S. combat role in Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, which have sent large numbers of mainly young vets back home in a shorter period of time, putting extreme pressure on the VA’s health care system.
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