What do Miley Cyrus, Howard Stern and this newspaper have in common?
All three of these things flex the muscles of their constitutional rights.
Rights that have been the backbone of this country for centuries. And while nearly all Americans are quick to lean on those rights, there is some question if this society does enough to assist those brave few who have fought to uphold them.
Since the United States’ victory over Great Britain nearly 250 years ago, countless lives have been lost defending the rights that make this country what it is. To make matters worse, service members have returned home to face the daunting task of transitioning back into civilian life alone. Vets have been asked to move past the horrifying realities of war and simply “become a functional member of society.” Problems presented include the psychological affects of war along with the need for veterans to find employment.
Fortunately, organizations like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) have taken notice of such physiological issues and launched countermeasures. Meanwhile, programs like “Got Your 6” and “Hire a Veteran” have taken on the mission of helping vets find employment and easing their difficult transition.
One excessively menacing enemy opposing veterans is the well-known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The symptoms of PTSD, according to the Mayo Clinic, include flashbacks and the reliving of traumatic events for extended periods of time. These symptoms can lead to irritability, overwhelming guilt, hallucinations, difficulty sleeping and self-destructive behavior.
According to the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affair, approximately half of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD.
In the eyes of a psychologist on campus, who has worked with veterans, the American Government and armed forces did very little, and occasionally nothing, to aid veterans returning from war zones following the Vietnam War.
“The first time I came home, medical care was outstanding,” said retired Marine Corps veteran Paul Bramkamp, “but there was no availability of psychological ‘damage control.’” The idea Bramkamp originally encountered in regards to psychological damage was a ‘gut-up’ attitude. An attitude which, he said, is a way service members have been conditioned to ‘suck-it-up and take it.’”
This idea has been far too successful. According to the V.A., only 56 percent of the service members who returned home between 2002 and 2012 sought out the health care they were entitled to.
Part of the reason treatment has been insufficient, according to Bramkamp, is the inability of the civilian to envision the horrors of war.
“PTSD in the civilian world,” Baramkamp said, “is a label applied to people who were denied the TV remote as children. PTSD in the military world is applied to soldiers picking up pieces of children.”
Fortunately, however, the military, along with the civilian world, have taken notice of the psychological toll that battle has taken on service members.
According to USA Today, the V.A. reports 117,000 cases of PTSD have been treated in vets since 9/11.
Also, information regarding to and treatment for things like PTSD and “battle fatigue” are readily available and easily accessible online. Leading the charge in this cause is V.A.
“For the most part, people try,” said Marine Corp veteran Paul Nawrath. “Especially programs like the V.A., they do the best they can with what they’re given.”
However, for those service members lucky enough to escape combat with their full mental and physical health, the troubles continue.
According to reports released in March 2013 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans was at 10.9 percent. During that same timeframe, the unemployment rate of non-veterans was 7.9 percent.
So the question becomes, how can these people risk everything that they have, only to come home and be shunned by the people whom they fought for?
According to Todd Steffan, the coordinator for the “Veterans First” program on campus, there are steps that can be taken to remedy this situation, including the development of more paid internships for veterans.
Steffan argues that veterans often have certain responsibilities, which deem unpaid internships difficult, bordering on irresponsible.
Research done by “Military Education” has shown that the average age of non-veteran college students ranges from 18 to 22, while the average age of their veteran counterparts ranges from 24 to 27.
That age gap brings other variables into the mix, which, according to Steffan, includes the need to provide for a spouse and, often, children.
Solving these issues falls on the willingness of possible employers, willingness to provide paid internships and even actively seeking out vets. There are benefits to be reaped by those employers willing to do so.
“Our returning veterans have many great qualities,” Steffan said, like “leadership skills, dedication, time management, technical knowledge and teamwork,” all things that most employers are in search of.
Things like the job fair that LPC hosted earlier this semester are a great start, but are nowhere near enough. There are still avenues to be explored, but all great missions begin with an opening salvo.
For all those whose opinions were voiced, the advancements made on both the battlefield of psychological treatment for, as well as the employing of, veterans are great starts. But they are just that – starts. There is more that can be done; there is more that must be done.
The people of this country owe more than a debt of gratitude to those who have made their sacrifice in blood. These brave warriors have fought for this country; it is time that this country fights harder for them.