Commentary: Military must help war vets

The Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 15, 2010 

In 2009, 301 active-duty members of the U.S. military took their own lives. Repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in ongoing wars with no apparent end, stresses on marriages, profound grief, survivor's guilt and war's horrors are enemies enough.

But perhaps the toughest enemy is the one within the ranks -- the deeply ingrained notion that a warrior who acknowledges suicidal thoughts and asks for help has succumbed to weakness.

The military needs to defeat that notion.

Truth is on the side of the officers and non-coms who are leading the way in bringing the issue of suicide into the light and onto the list of wounds that need treatment. No stigma or shame should attend the troops who suffer dark imaginings of what they'll write in suicide notes and how they'll do the deed, men and women who struggle with demons and ghosts that won't let them reclaim any joy in living.

Dr. Joe Pace, a VA psychiatrist in Anchorage, said it simply: Those who suffer from any degree of post- traumatic stress disorder are reacting normally to an abnormal situation. And the sooner troops go for help, the sooner they tend to heal.

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