End of the Iraq War: One Year After Troops Withdrawn

Troops close the gate between Kuwait and Iraq.

This past Sunday marked the one year anniversary of the official end of the Iraq War. Coalition forces, primarily American troops, withdrew from the country. It was the stage for intense insurgent and terrorist operations that took a massive toll on the troops with approximately 4,500 casualties and over 32,000 injured. In addition to these losses, the cost in PTSD injuries and TBI remains high and still leads to casualties in the form of veteran suicides.

Some may liken PTSD to a ticking time bomb but that’s a disgrace to our veterans. It characterizes a normal reaction to vicious trauma as dangerous and does not exemplify veterans. Admittedly, the effects of PTSD are often latent and surface later through various symptoms. PTSD symptoms generally fall into four categories: hyperarousal (or sometimes referred to as hyper-vigilance), feelings and beliefs become negative, avoidance of trigger situations that remind of trauma, and reliving the event through nightmares and flashbacks. Unfortunately these behaviors are mostly misunderstood. Civilians have not experienced war trauma so veterans will turn to the company of other veterans to confide in.

This is where Swords is ideal for responding to veteran issues like PTSD. Based on the mantra “vets helping vets,” we can relate to the challenges because we understand as an organization and as individuals. After the Vietnam War, our communities failed to assimilate veterans and serve their specific needs. The extent of difficulty was largely unrecognized except by those familiar with the process of transition. Luckily, now we find that the veteran issues are getting more attention nationally — we see more research into PTSD and TBI, high rates of substance abuse and suicide, and VA failures to provide necessary care and benefits. These are huge issues requiring long-term and robust solutions.

We also find history repeating itself (in a sense) with our Post-9/11 veterans. Many find terrible consequences from exposure to burn pits causes long-term damage to respiratory and cardiovascular, major organs, and nervous system that doctors are only now beginning to understand. The exposure to dangerous toxins is reminiscent of Agent Orange that afflicted so many Vietnam vets with a wide array of terrible maladies. The number of affected veterans is still unclear as veteran health problems have not yet been attributed to the exposure.

It’s important to take a moment to reflect on the milestone of one year removed from Iraq. As we enjoy the holidays, our shared support for the troops is sometimes overlooked as thoughts turn to family and friends. This is true even for me, as I work to support our veteran services. I had overlooked the recent anniversary that meant so much more for those who served in Iraq at great cost to their health and happiness. The official end of the Iraq War a year ago does not end the need for veterans services — this is a long term commitment to our veterans and their fulfillment in our community.

Please donate to support our programs this holiday season: we are in the midst of our Crowdrise holiday fundraising campaign. Thank you for your support.

Sources:  Symptoms of PTSD, Burn Pits, by the Department of Veterans Affairs; Business Insider, March 20, 2013, by Michael Kelley and Geoffrey Ingersoll