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25 May, 2020 19:51

US veterans survive foreign battlefields only to die back at home from invisible enemies like Covid-19 & suicide

US veterans survive foreign battlefields only to die back at home from invisible enemies like Covid-19 & suicide

This Memorial Day, America is confronted with the task of honoring members of its armed forces who died while serving a globe-spanning killing machine, while those veterans who made it home are dying from a host of afflictions.

When Americans think of honoring their fallen servicemen and women, the image that quickly comes to mind is that of a soldier dying heroically, albeit needlessly, on some distant battlefield. There may even be some special effects borrowed from the Hollywood image factory to complete the mental picture. The reality, however, is rarely so glorious.

Far from dying on the beaches of Normandy, or the mountain ranges of Afghanistan, US veterans are dying silently at home –sometimes on the streets, sometimes in institutions– from a number of lethal enemies, including suicide, drug abuse, homelessness and even coronavirus.

Indeed, a particularly tragic footnote to accompany the US holiday is that 74 veterans died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts due to Covid-19. The deaths reflect a shockingly reckless strategy of dealing with this peacetime enemy in which many highly populated states, like California, New Jersey and New York actually force nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients from hospitals. Such a decision is even more difficult to understand when it is remembered that the sick and elderly –who make up the bulk of the veteran demographic– are the groups most at-risk of dying from the virus.  

As the new coronavirus steals much of the spotlight these days, Americans might be surprised to know that a far more lethal enemy is threatening US veterans, and that is increasingly themselves. According to Military Times, the number of suicides among veterans has grown during four of the last five years on record. Put another way, an estimated 22 US veterans die every day from suicide. This astronomical figure derives from a variety of factors affecting combat veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, divorce and the inability of many veterans to reintegrate back into ‘civilian life.’ Now, with Covid-19 tearing through the global economy like a hurricane, wrecking lives and families with abandon, there is a high risk that veteran suicide rates will worsen.

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It may seem like sour grapes to lecture the United States on a national holiday when many Americans will be attempting some sort of celebration, despite harsh social distancing regulations to dampen the mood. It goes without saying, however, that most people –and perhaps more so with military personnel– do not want their deaths to be in vain.

Although Trump provided a much-needed injection of spending for medical assistance to veterans, it will be money out the window unless the United States gets serious about changing its martial ways.  Judging, however, by the explosive growth of US military spending, now at a mind-blowing $721 billion annually, America will be committed to the business of warfare regardless of which president from whatever party is in power.

The end result of this madness is evident in the health of US veterans, whose plight will not improve no matter how much money is thrown at the issue. The simple answer is less wars and less spending on military expansion, which is fueling an atmosphere of tension across the globe with the very worst side effects found on Main Street, USA.

For a nation that lives by the sword…sometimes the best alternative is to move in with erstwhile enemies, incredible as that may sound. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the beginning of this very tumultuous year, an increasing number of Americans, including veterans, are “living a lifestyle reminiscent of Florida, Nevada and Arizona, but in Vietnam.

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While the reasons for such moves are multitudinous, and oftentimes based on simple economics, the truth is that many Americans are starting to see through the deadly charade of warfare, where the powerful defense companies get wealthier and the soldier suffers as he and she must. Hopefully this Memorial Day more Americans will understand there is a better way, both for America and the world. It is called ‘peace’ and known to work miracles.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.