Got some feedback on my blog from yesterday (which was kind of cool), and also got sent some articles disputing the articles I posted yesterday from the New York Times.
Generally the articles were of two types. One type questioned the validity of the statistics, and the methodology of gathering the statistics (which is an entirely valid argument). The other genre were of the type that insisted that it was the traitorous, liberal, soldier hating, America hating New York Times trying to get even with the soldiers because the surge was so successful. The best example of this was a piece by Ralph Peters.
Over the past several months, I have tried to document in a hopefully non-sensational, non-exploitative way these issues (i.e. the crime, the alcoholism, drug abuse, PTSD, etc) in this forum.
I also want to always be thinking about and talking about SOLUTIONS to these problems.
I think there is a pretty compelling argument that SOMETHING is going on. I believe the cases they used, while maybe being "cherry picked" were disturbing enough to comment on.
I highlighted the case of Mr. Sepi (many of the articles chastised the use of this person as someone who they tried to make look like "Rambo").
My interest in him was that I felt his case was almost a clinical example of how NOT to successfully integrate back into society after the war.
Make no mistake (and maybe I wasn't clear enough), nothing was DONE to this young man. HE chose to withdraw himself. HE chose to move to a place where he didn't know anybody. HE chose to live in a situation that was physically dangerous. HE chose to continue to carry a weapon and continue to drink. HE chose to ignore the advice given to him to show up for his alcohol treatment.
It was as if he had a checklist on "how to screw your life up" and he went down and checked off all of them for good measure.
As I said yesterday, there are many vets who are making the good choices for their lives, and we should continue to look to them and replicate their treatment plans and ideas as best as possible.
In the end though, how do you get through to a person such as this? Is there an ability to do so? Or is he just "the cost of doing business" for freedom's sake?
One thing I have been looking at lately is a program called Battlemind (http://www.battlemind.org/index.html). This seems interesting to me, although I do not know if this is a solution to try to solve these problems.
I don't think the problem is coming up with programs to take care of our troops.
I think the problems are with funding them (and this article chronicles Maryland's efforts on trying to fund their National Guard readjustment programs http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,160065,00.html), keeping track of who is going through them, systematically making sure everyone is going through them, and following up to make sure everyone is getting the help they need.
Then, I believe the biggest thing would be to systematically make sure that these programs are EFFECTIVE.
In an earlier blog (New Years Resolution), I chronicled Montana's struggles with taking care of their vets.
Their governor (Brian Schweitzer) said "The federal government does a remarkable job of converting a citizen to a warrior, I think they have an equal responsibility converting a warrior back to a citizen."
I think that is still a rallying cry. But it cannot only be the responsibility of the Federal Government.
I really believe that there are good people within the system who have the very best interests of the soldiers and their families, but I believe that these efforts seem pretty fragmented and haphazard.
I would love for someone to tell me that I am wrong about all this, and show me where the systematized thinking and problem solving is. Until I get those answers, I'm going to keep writing about this.
Occasionally I'll get it wrong (or wrong enough), but I think we're in big trouble if we don't solve these problems.