The Public Square

Gary Storm on the Plight of Veterans Returning from Iraq


More "Voices from Iraq": The Plight of U.S. Veterans Returning from Iraq

Hello. My name is Gary Storm. I am an Urbana resident, a retired faculty member from the University of Illinois at Springfield, and a member of AWARE (Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort). My comments today are about a problem that desperately needs attention and correction.

In our local community there is a serious lack of public awareness about the plight of injured U.S. veterans returning from the war and occupation in Iraq. Are you aware of the difficulties and struggles these injured veterans face upon their return home?

The Bush Administration sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to war but failed to anticipate that many would need medical care for physical and mental injuries when they came home. He failed to budget adequately for the many new veterans entering the Veterans Administration medical system. Those who use the VA health care system are facing substantially higher co-payments and waiting times, and are at-risk for higher fees, depriving them of the care they need and deserve.

More than 450,000 U. S. veterans suffer from a mental illness which the VA has determined to be service-connected, that is, illness that was incurred or aggravated in military service. A survey conducted by the Pentagon revealed that nearly one in ten American soldiers who served in Iraq was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, most after witnessing death or participating in combat. This disorder can result in severe mental problems, leading to disruption in their personal, family, and social lives. Surely these men and women, who answered the call to serve, should receive medical care of the highest quality!

What is the status of the administration's support for our American veterans? Kim Abel, a Nursing Instructor at Illinois Valley Community College, will present "Stories from Iraq: Lessons from Walter Reed Army Medical Center," on Thursday, August 10, at 7:00 p.m. in the Urbana Free Library Auditorium. During the summer of 2005 she worked with Iraqi War veterans at Walter Reed.

During war, many soldiers are mentally and physically wounded. Many are pushed out of the public's view. Let's not forget them. Come hear their stories on August 10th at the Urbana Free Library at 7:00 p.m. Members of AWARE. I hope to see you there.