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Patricia McLaughlin, Published October 17 2010

Let us stand united with our war veterans

U.S. military suicides have claimed more lives than combat-related deaths in Afghanistan. Last week marked the start of our 10th year there. It’s time to ask: Why are we sending troubled soldiers back into combat?

The American Journal of Public Health this year published a study estimating that 20 to 50 percent of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. With our military over-stretched, many of those same troops are being sent back to war.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that soldier suicides – not Afghanistan military strategy – is his top priority right now. That is a clear indication that there is something terribly wrong with how the military is supporting (or not supporting) the mental health of our troops.

In response, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans came together last week to announce Operation Recovery, a campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops. They are calling on the military and our government to stop redeploying troops who already suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma (from rape by other military members). They are asking members of the public to defend their right to heal from war.

I, for one, will be standing with them.