Bush emphasized that some 2.5 million American had served since 9/11 and of those 2 million served in Afghanistan or Iraq. He characterized them as the one percent that kept the 99 percent safe. He said although we can never fully repay them for their service the country ought to try.
“Since 9/11, more than 2.5 million Americans have worn the uniform … They are the 1 percent of America who kept the 99 percent safe. And we owe them and their families a deep debt of gratitude. Our country can never really fully repay our vets, but we ought to try.”
The Stars and Stripes reported that Bush advised the summit that his his institute’s plans had been shaped by a joint study with the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The study, which Bush described as the most comprehensive study of post 9/11 veterans, but results would not be released until this spring. Nonetheless Bush let some of the findings out of the bag.
Of the 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans, more than 2 million served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The average veteran spent one out of every three years overseas.
82 percent of the post-9/11 veterans said that they would recommend military service to someone considering signing up, and 94 percent said they were proud of their military service.
84 percent of the veterans say the American public has little awareness of the challenges they and their families face; 71 percent of Americans say they do not understand the problems facing our veterans.
Post-9/11 veterans face ever higher rates of unemployment than their civilian counterparts, and this is their top concern.
Veterans without a steady job are more susceptible to other problems, such as depression, addiction, homelessness and suicide.
The dropout rate for veterans exceeds 50 percent at some institutions of higher learning.
Points to take away for Canadians
Canadians have little awareness awareness of the challenges veterans and military families faces. Veterans and their families are often left on their own to deal with their problems.
Returning veterans, who leave the military often find that they have difficulty relating to their civilian counterparts. While the public is sympathetic towards veterans, it can’t relate to their problems.
While there are a number of programs available to veterans, the bureaucratic process to access those programs is often cumbersome and leads to frustration for veterans.
Bush’s Military Initiative intends to focus on educating Americans on wha they can do as individuals, which for most veterans means that they want their service understood. The institute will also focus on translating military into civilian skills.
“I mean, you don’t see many job postings that say, ‘Wanted: experience in hunting insurgents and terrorists, willing to risk life for co-workers.’ [But] when a resume says United States military, that means you can count on the applicant to be loyal, [they’ve] got good leadership, teamwork skills, and discipline. To an employer, that should mean a lot,” Bush said.
Bush also emphasized that PTSD is treatable. Not unlike depression PTSD can be treated with counseling and medication. He said that like most serious injuries it never goes away and those suffering must seek help.
There is still a serious stigma in both the military and the public regarding mental health. Canada’s military has been releasing veterans due to PTSD, but as Bush said these people are not mentally shattered. They are people that were hurt in the service of our country and employers and by extension the military would not hesitate to retain or hire people that are controlling diabetes or high blood pressure with medication. Read the remainder of the recommendations here.
The central question going forward from yesterday’s summit on veterans issues at the Bush Institute is this: How do we get to the point in our society that veterans with post-traumatic stress are not treated as damaged goods?
The study raises very many valid points and outlines that much more can be done to help our veterans to ease transition into society. 12 years of war has taken its toll on military veterans and their families. We can all do better. We owe it to our veterans.