Oct 18, 2010

After Service, Veteran Deaths Surge

The psychological and physical impact of soldiers who participate in any war are always the hidden cost of combat. However, new information is emerging regarding veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars showing an alarming number of deaths by suicide or self inflicted trauma such as car or motorcycle accidents. Asia America Initiative has dedicated our peace building programs in areas of armed conflict to take the pressure off of American and allied soldiers, prevent harm to innocent civilians, and to prevent soldiers from having to experience the types of trauma that cause post conflict self inflicted casualties.--- Albert Santoli President Asia America Initiative

The New York Times
"In the six years after Reuben Paul Santos returned to Daly City from a combat tour in Iraq, he battled depression with poetry, violent video games and, finally, psychiatric treatment. His struggle ended last October, when he hung himself from a stairwell. He was 27.

The high suicide rate among veterans has already emerged as a major issue for the military and the families and loved ones of military personnel. But Mr. Santos’s death is part of a larger trend that has remained hidden: a surge in the number of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who have died not just as a result of suicide, but also because of vehicle accidents, motorcycle crashes, drug overdoses or other causes after being discharged from the military.

An analysis of official death certificates on file at the State Department of Public Health reveals that more than 1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008. That figure is three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period. The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs said they do not count the number of veterans who have died after leaving the military.

The figures, according to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, legislators and experts in post-traumatic stress, underscore how veterans in Bay Area communities and across the state engage in destructive, risky and sometimes lethal behaviors.

The data show that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service. They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.

“These numbers are truly alarming and should wake up the whole country,” said United States Representative Bob Filner, Democrat of San Diego, who is the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “They show a failure of our policy.”

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