The U.S. has been engaged in war for a decade. Thousands have been killed on both sides. The bill totals nearly $3 trillion. The objectives are murky at best, and have often faded from consciousness, as politics and economics took center stage in American media. While troops withdraw from Iraq and combat winds down in Afghanistan, the scars are still fresh. When U.S. soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, was accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians in March, the nation refocused attention on the psychological effects war has had on soldiers.
For many veterans who’ve returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, their personal war is far from over. They must learn to readjust to the pressures of civilian life, and learn to cope with traumatic memories of combat. Veterans are at higher risk for mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, suicide and substance abuse problems. Military suicide has also been in the news, prompting coverage and discussion over how the war has impacted those who engaged in combat. The number of suicides in the US Army rose by 80 percent after the United States launched the war on Iraq, according to figures asserted by American military doctors.
The circumstances of the recent wars are unique from previous periods of conflict like Vietnam and World War II. The dynamics of the military have changed. Women play a much larger role in military operations and a draft is no longer in place, so a smaller portion of the general population has served in combat. Of those who have enlisted, many soldiers, like Sgt. Bales, sign up for multiple tours with a large percentage remaining as reserves.