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posted: 4/4/2014 5:00 AM

Editorial: Veterans' needs cannot be ignored

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  • An Army veteran in Tennessee helps place 1,892 flags representing veterans and service members who have died by suicide to date in 2014.

      An Army veteran in Tennessee helps place 1,892 flags representing veterans and service members who have died by suicide to date in 2014.
    Associated Press

 

It's too soon to know whether the Wednesday shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, are a grim reminder of what a recent poll of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan found.

The poll, conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation and reported by the Post in Monday editions of the Daily Herald, found more than half of the 2.6 million Americans who fought in those wars struggle with physical or mental health problems.

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While enough isn't known about why a veteran killed three and injured 16 before taking his own life at Fort Hood, the base's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said the gunman had sought help for depression, anxiety and other problems and was taking medication, according to The Associated Press.

And while that would be, if proved, an extreme example of a post-traumatic stress disorder situation stemming from time at war, many veterans -- more than 1 million, says the Post poll -- suffer from relationship problems and experience outbursts of anger.

"What is different about this generation? We've asked them to do a lot more, in a smaller serving force, in some of the longest wars in our history," Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the Post.

Closer to home, those who have taken on the task of helping suburban veterans know all too well the cost of the service from these brave men and women.

"Unfortunately, we have helped many of these guys the (Post) article is talking about," said Mary Beth Beiersdorf, executive director of Salute, Inc. in Palatine, an organization that provides emergency assistance to returning veterans.

Beiersdorf said the general public needs to be reminded what veterans are going through when they get home. They need counseling to deal with mental health issues and guidance about financial planning and jobs to help them get a solid footing.

To help, she looks to groups like the Illinois Institute of Art, which recently raised $18,000 for Salute during a fashion show. It was a wonderful gesture and one that Beiersdorf says happens often. But the needs remain great and should remain the forefront of our minds.

"We've been lucky enough to have received an outpouring of community support over the years," said Beiersdorf, as quoted in a Daily Herald article Monday, but "as you go on, don't forget about us."

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