The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

March/April 2003
PTSD/SUBSTANCE ABUSE COMMITTEE REPORT
 
 

Coalition of the Ailing

BY STEVE MASON, CHAIR

The "Coalition of the Willing" has accomplished its immediate military objective. Long-term political stabilization in the Middle East remains a spinning question mark. Democratization is not a mere legislative doctrine, but the committed will of the people to establish a sovereign republic whose citizens accept the responsibility to freely elect their leaders. The United States of America cannot do this for another nation. We can, however, ensure Iraq's safety to make such a transition. This Great Nation will do its part, just as we veterans will do our part. We, who are veterans of another war, have a duty to perform for those who so bravely fought that others might
be free. It is a duty we accept with determination.

Our concern as Vietnam veterans is that the veterans of this conflict not suffer the ravages of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as did we. This military action has created tens of thousands of soon-to-be veterans. Many will develop the one syndrome that is the connecting tissue of our entire organization. If there is a single mission deserving of our legacy, let it be that we will be trenchant activists on behalf of this latest generation of "our own." From the tall grasses of our communities to the smooth ground of Capitol Hill, these veterans must never be abandoned.

Whatever counseling is necessary, whatever care is needed, whatever education should be disseminated, we, Vietnam Veterans of America, must and will request and--where necessary--demand delivery. The true cost of war is always in human terms. No fiscal constraints should apply to the predictable, appropriate need to provide adequate resources for the "best of this generation." If long-term care for those who become chronically mentally ill should become a real need, facilities and professional personnel must be available. If the need for acute care exceed available 'in-patient' bed space, room and staff must be found. It is a certainty that regardless of their opinion on the necessity for this conflict, Americans staunchly supported our
troops in this war. It is a moral obligation that we support them as veterans with equal intensity and enthusiasm. God bless them, they have and will continue to earn it.

Those of us who experienced war decades ago realize that the "real-time" war coverage in Iraq caused much distress in our lives. It triggered our past. Trauma is always in the "now." And now we must convert that negative energy into a positive life force. We will do so by being "there" for these young men and women who will soon need our support and advocacy.

This committee will do all that it can to encourage our best service to these deserving of our new veteran community. If I am right in my belief that there is only one war, then I know that Heraclitus was right, "Not I, but the whole world says it--we are one."  

   

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