Last week's violence at Fort Hood set a shocking new standard for the potential risks faced by U.S. military personnel at stateside facilities. Yet the rampage, which left 13 dead and 29 wounded, also demonstrated why Americans can and should take tremendous pride in the courage and skill of their armed forces, on this Veterans Day and every day.
When the shooting started, the trained warriors at Fort Hood did their jobs, as did civilian law enforcement officers. Soldiers guided other soldiers to safety and medical attention. Tables and shirts were transformed into stretchers. A pickup became an ambulance. The wounded helped with triage. The makeshift bandages seen at the base hospital also demonstrated the readiness for battle of those who were part of the "controlled chaos" at the base's Soldier Readiness Center. "It shows me that when I do go into combat, everybody knows what to do," said Pfc. Jeffrey Pearsall.
Similarly, Americans know what to do to properly honor and care for their defenders, including those who carry physical and mental wounds home from the front and for the rest of their lives. Too often, though, the assistance and opportunities fall short of the obligations and good intentions.
There continue to be difficulties in ensuring that mental illness is properly diagnosed and treated in the military. The high rate of traumatic brain injury in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a factor, as has post-traumatic stress disorder.
It's also troubling that the numbers of homeless veterans have been increasing in Kansas and nationally. There were 712 homeless vets in Kansas in 2008, up from 689 in 2007 and 601 in 2006, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
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