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VOL. 127 | NO. 59 | Monday, March 26, 2012

Commit to Veterans Who Committed to US

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Most veterans make the adjustment back to civilian life with very few bumps.

But hopefully since Vietnam, the nation has realized that there are bumps just about all veterans encounter in a difficult transition from battlefield to hometown – even under the best of circumstances.

The quicker they can get help when they realize they need help, the easier that transition is likely to be.

It seems the military has a way to go in living up to a stated policy of encouraging soldiers to get such help. The distance to that goal is measured in the reaction when a soldier does seek help. In too many cases, the reaction contradicts the policy.

The actions and attitudes must match the words.

And so must a policy that in 10 years of war did much to heighten the strain on soldiers and their families, as well as those who support them.

The terms of deployment were a year in country and a year of “dwell time” or time at home.

Those terms were changed frequently as political certainties in the service of goals proved to be battlefield uncertainties in the face of reality. Some veterans were deployed half a dozen times or more with some deployments for 15 months.

The effects were real and documented.

That included a rise in suicide rates among soldiers and a doubling of the number of deaths of military children through abuse and neglect in a five-year period, as reported by The Military Times.

In 2007, the year of the “surge” in Iraq, the U.S. Army increased deployment lengths to 15 months and “dwell time” was a year.

Just before President Barack Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq, the Army made the decision to shorten deployments from 12 months to nine months and dwell time to two years effective this past January with the deployment of 270,000 soldiers.

The decision, however, comes with plenty of caveats that go to the uncertainty of war and the success of the surge, which means the tactic is likely to remain in the military playbook.

The true test of the commitment to this will come when the clamor of war leads to the next surge sold on promises of a quick resolution that never comes as quickly as the realization that such a surge is never the end of a commitment.

The larger point in these kinds of guarantees is that we remain vigilant in weighing the reasons we decide to put our armed forces in harm’s way.

It should never be an easy decision. And it must never be done under the illusion that somehow their journey to other places keeps our society isolated from all of the effects of the decision to go to war.

This is a cost we all bear, whether we acknowledge it or not.

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