Veterans struggle with stress, PTSD

November 11, 2009 3:21:38 PM PST
Along with the common bond of serving the country, many veterans share the burden of dealing with post-war stress. All say support is the only way to deal with mental health issues that war often leaves behind.

Veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with combat-related mental health problems at rates never seen before.

Veterans Day, as opposed to Memorial Day, is meant for honoring the living, and veterans from many conflicts say the best way we could do that is to make sure they're getting the support and help they need.

Coming home to America after serving your country at war isn't what it used to be.

Just ask Vietnam veteran Robert Kroll, who remembers all too well being shunned after serving in an unpopular war.

"We were just pushed aside, no one really wanted to say we were from Vietnam," Kroll said.

These days, Kroll says veterans are mostly given the respect they deserve, but what they're coming home to -- a recession and near record unemployment -- is a different kind of combat. "I think it's a little harder now. When I came home they did have jobs for veterans, and I did get a job with the city, believe it or not," Kroll said.

At the time, we were only beginning to learn about something called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which appears to be soaring among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. A recent survey found that nearly 20 percent of today's veterans report PTSD or depression.

"It might have been going on during the time I was in, but it wasn't as prevalent as it is now," said Rick Murray, veteran of Korean Conflict.

Military suicide rates are higher than ever, and more vets are becoming homeless at a faster rate. At Mayor Daley's Veterans Day ceremony at Soldier Field Wednesday, sacrifice was the common theme: sacrifices made by veterans of every conflict to preserve our freedom.

But what about the personal sacrifices so many of today's vets are making after coming home? Leroy Colston, 85, says in World War Two the enemy was clear, the battlefield defined. Not so with the war on terrorism.

"They don't know their enemy, everybody looks the same," Colston said.

"I think we have to become much more conscious of the returning solider at this point than we ever had to do in the past," said Edward Douglas, WWII veteran.

Veterans of past conflicts that spoke with ABC7 agree that today's generation of warriors seem to be having a harder time transitioning to civilian life than previous generations, but they don't all agree on what's behind it.

Most say one thing has remained constant through the decades -- the Veterans Administration can and should be doing more when it comes to mental health.The VA has added mental health services and funding in recent years, but most say it's still not nearly enough.


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