As military families, we are keenly aware of the costs of the wars on terror. We live them, we see them around us every day. We have lost countless mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and loved ones. Some we have lost in combat, others return damaged by their experiences. Some come with the physical scars of battle, while others return with the invisible wounds of war.
It’s the invisible wounds of war that are the most insidious. They usually come into our nation’s consciousness because something sensationalistic is reported on the news: someone struggling with the psychological toll of combat is thrust into the limelight when a tragedy occurs, a shooting or suicide happens, and bases go on lockdown. But as a military community we know all too well about these costs. These struggles are fought alone, in private, in homes across the country every single day. Caregivers fight for their loved ones, some battles they win, others they don’t.
These daily struggles, these hard fought battles are the collateral damage of war. As the word implies, they tend to be an afterthought. Entire families are affected by the fallout and are torn apart by the impact. I would argue that more than just collateral damage, those service members that die by suicide and the damaged families that are left behind are combat deaths too. Their wounds originated in battle. They were scarred and broken by it. This was a slower, quieter wound, one that would fester in some cases months, in others years. All with the same fatal outcome: death by suicide.
The statistics are sobering. In the past thirteen years of war there have been over 1.6 million troops deployed. 6,700 of which have died in combat; over 2,700, or more than half, have died by their own hand, unable to cope with the wounds of war.
If these invisible wounds of war are not addressed as they should be, military families, service members, and our country will continue to experience casualties long after the wars have ended.
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