Commentary: Our troops deserve better care

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.

War results in many kinds of injuries. Some are visible to the naked eye. Others are less apparent until the psyche suffers a break and the victim's mental anguish spills over in the form of substance abuse, domestic abuse, violent crime, murder or suicide.

On May 11, Army Sgt. John Russell, a 44-year-old who had been recognized as deeply troubled and was on his third tour in Iraq, went into the counseling center at Camp Liberty in Iraq and opened fire, killing an Army officer, a Navy officer and three enlisted soldiers.

This high-profile act highlights the need to do more to take care of our soldiers' mental health wounds and needs.

The veterans hospital in Fresno broke ground for a new mental-health outpatient center last week. The two-story building will serve veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, among others, who have substance-abuse problems and mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. The Veterans Affairs Central California Health Care System treats more than 4,000 veterans a year for mental health issues.

In November, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Kroener, command chaplain at Lemoore Naval Air Station, told The Fresno Bee that the nature of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan contributes to high-level troop stress.

"It's being under fire," he said. "It's the uncertainty with where your enemy might be at, especially in today's situation, with the war on terror.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.