The hidden wounds of war perhaps first shamefully characterized the American brain trust with two haunting post-Vietnam films: Taxi Driver; and Deer Hunter. It is an underreported and more prevalent reality of war that the government fails to deal with, even if the cases involve murder and suicide.
Since the 2003 Iraq invasion, there have been seven homicides and three suicides among Washington military men alone. Five wives, a girlfriend and one child have been killed. Three servicemen have committed suicide; two after killing their wife or girlfriend.
Last July, Sergeant 1st Class James Pitts was imprisoned for drowning his wife in his Lakewood, Wash., home only two weeks after returning from Iraq. “I wish I was dead,” he told the judge.
That was the third homicide of the month that involved military personnel. All of those slayings occurred around Fort Lewis, Wash., which holds 26,700 soldiers, with another 13,200 family members living in base housing. Areas of heavy military concentration have underscored the problem. In 2002, there were four homicides involving active duty soldiers and their spouses at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Neither the Pentagon nor the Department of Foreign Affairs keeps records of military-involved stateside homicides and suicides.
According to Rick Anderson of the Seattle Weekly, the National Gulf War service center says as many as 90 soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan commited suicide after coming home.
The Army’s Surgeon General reported that 30 to 40 percent of soldiers returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are troubled by everything from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Back in June, the secretary of the Veteran’s Administration appeared before a Congressional committee and maintained that his department was $1 billion short of the funding necessary to treat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
This mistreatment is nothing new; 200,000 veterans from an assortment of American wars have become homeless.
There is only unreliable evidence of Gulf War I suicides. But, of the 148 soldiers killed during the war, 11,000 more have died since, what people call “the most toxic war in military history.”
Still, these deaths on the home front are perhaps the most forgotten indication of the cost to liberate Iraq and fight terrorism. I doubt much will ever really happen to resolve the neglect of veterans. Supporting the troops never included health care.