Famous veterans who have served our country

US veterans: home again - and then what?

700,000 returnees have so far sought medical help, a good half because of psychological problems such as depression and aggression. The figures come from the Department of Veterans Affairs and represent those who have turned there for help. It is not known how many former soldiers seek mental health care from non-governmental organizations. "However, it is likely that this number is also very high," says psychologist Barbara van Dahlen from Washington.

Barbara van Dahlen was voted one of the 100 most important people by Time Magazine for her commitment.

Seven years ago she founded the aid organization "Give an hour", which organizes volunteers in the USA to help the veterans. Psychologists and laypeople who want to help on a voluntary basis can register on the "Give an hour" website. The former soldiers can easily find contacts in their area if they need psychological support. 6,000 volunteers are now registered with "Give an hour".

Lots of unemployed veterans

For some years now, US veterans have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTB for short. They are often caused by experiences in combat, but also by sexual harassment and rape in the military. Many veterans are so affected by the experience that they completely lose the ground under their feet and end up on the street.

President Obama awards Sergeant Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor in 2010. Giunta served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barbara van Dahlen started her internet initiative after a question from her daughter made her think. "She wanted to know why we have so many homeless veterans in a country as rich as ours," reports the psychologist. Official statistics show that 150,000 of all US veterans are non-resident. 13,000 of the US registered homeless in 2010 served in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to USA Today. About twelve percent of all US veterans who have served since 2001 are unemployed.
The number of those who are forever traumatized remains inaccurate.

It is likely that most of the soldiers suffer from mental health problems because their units have been embroiled in combat. "I thought that nowadays you can do something for them with the help of the new media," says van Dahnen, explaining her motivation for founding "Give an Hour". The idea was born: the call to give a little of your own time to the veterans to help them. Van Dahlen himself experienced as an adolescent how the veterans from Vietnam fared, her own father was a soldier in the Second World War. Time Magazine recently named van Dahlen among the 100 most influential people in the world.

Authorities improve

Although so many US veterans have severe mental health problems, there is no standardized program for returnees in the US, as in many European countries. Anyone who is injured or sick from an operation can apply for treatment from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. However, it must be precisely proven that the disease has to do with the mission.

Army veteran poverty affects women as well.

The first five years of treatment are then free of charge. In addition, the former soldiers can get advice in one of the 288 veteran centers, also together with their families. However, there are repeated reports that they have to wait many months for treatments such as psychotherapy. This can be particularly devastating in the event of an impending suicide. Since the veteran suicide rate has risen sharply in the past five years, the government and military have been more vigilant about mental illness.

According to the "Katz Suicide Study" by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs in 2008, the suicide risk among veterans was already three times higher than that of the rest of the population. On average, the New York Times reports, one US veteran takes his own life every 80 minutes. "The military now has training programs to prevent post-traumatic problems," explains van Dahlen. Her country supports veterans far better now than it did during the Vietnam War, she explains. "But there is still a long way to go before this support is converted into concrete help for all veterans."

Shared perception

How are veterans viewed by American society? Many US citizens know very little about the lives of soldiers, says van Dahlen. "The veterans are very highly regarded, but I don't think that alone does justice to their situation. There are often misconceptions among US citizens about soldiers about why they serve, what families they come from and what happens to them when they come home. "

Both are available in the United States. On the one hand, the media-supported attitude of worshiping and being grateful to the military. On the other hand, many US citizens are critical of the situation on America's fronts. According to surveys, over 60 percent are against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is why the military is often viewed in a derogatory manner.

Neither attitude does justice to the veteran's problem. Because many former people are broken people and will remain traumatized for a long time to come, many of them until the end of their lives. Haunted by things they had to do, see and suffer until they returned to their homeland, where the vast majority of people cannot really understand them.