Veterans deserve greater support on homefront

Across our nation Wednesday, Americans used Veterans Day as an opportunity to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for the country. Veterans’ willingness to give of themselves in defense of our shared country has supported the lives we live every day.

However, there are far too many veterans who, in return, do not receive the support available after their service.

The battle does not end following their return home — physical wounds remain unhealed and invisible wounds can last long after the war is over. As citizens, it is our responsibility to both honor and support our veterans as willingly and generously as they have served our county.

Since 2002, more than 100,000 military service members have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. In some cases, PTSD becomes overwhelming and leads to suicide. Data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs partially illuminates the challenges veterans often face when returning to life at home:

•Nearly 20 percent — 342,000 individuals — have been in the VA’s health system for potential or provisional PTSD.

•As many as two-thirds will not seek treatment or support for PTSD.

•Among those who do, 75 percent will not receive adequate care.

•Veterans comprise about 22 percent of all suicides reported, though they are only 7 percent of the American population.

•An estimated 22 veterans die from suicide daily, one every 65 minutes.

Service in the military is life changing, making the transition from a military assignment back to civilian life difficult. Oftentimes, these brave men, women and family members feel the need to face their troubles alone.

As a result of PTSD, we see increases in alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, domestic violence, homelessness with children and suicides among military families. Everyday functions, such as eating and sleeping, become challenging obstacles as veterans try to work through the realities of life after service.

The best way to repay the veterans among us is to provide them with access to quality, individualized care. These very veterans who struggle every day have answered the call of duty to protect us and our country, so now is the time for us to return the service. As Americans, it is our duty to work tirelessly to give veterans the care they have earned.

There are many resources available for veterans and their families in times of struggle. Recovery is the process in which people are able to live, work and fully participate in their everyday lives. It’s important to equip veterans and their families with the tools they need to lead fulfilling lives beyond military service.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a difficulty while in military service or transitioning back to civilian life, please reach out for help. Centerstone, for example, offers a nationwide crisis line (866-781-8010) that offers immediate assistance.

If we all work together, we can provide refuge for veterans seeking to regain their lives after war.

Kent Crossley served 30 years in the U.S. Army, including for a time as commander of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and retired as a colonel. He is the executive director of Centerstone Military Services, overseeing Centerstone’s special programming and operations of services for military and veteran families. Centerstone is a not-for-profit organization with an office in Columbus that provides mental health, substance abuse, education and integrated health services.