I'm with The Bay Citizen, an online news service based in San Francisco. We've just published an analysis of official death certificates on file at the Department of Public Health that reveals that more than 1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008. That figure is three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period.
The analysis represents the first attempt to measure casualties for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans after they return home. The figures, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, legislators and experts in post-traumatic stress, underscore how veterans in Bay Area communities and across the state engage in destructive, risky and sometimes lethal behaviors.
The data shows that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service. They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.
After reviewing your blog I thought your readers would be interested in this report. Thank you for the valuable information. I hope you find the article useful.
If you've read any of my personal posts on STORMBRINGER, you may or may not know that you and I already have something in common; although I'm Australian by birth, I lived in San Francisco for several years before I joined the US Army - my entire time on active duty (over 25 years) I was a California state resident, although nowadays I live out on the mid-Atlantic coast.
Bottom Line Up Front: I am VERY suspect of any awareness campaigns that suggest veterans are susceptible to some kind of mysterious malady that makes them go crazy, dangerous to themselves and the people around them.
This theme began in the anti-war days of the 1970s and peaked with the Rambo movies. Basically, combat veterans are ticking time bombs.
This is an unproven hypothesis.
How about some statistics that show that veterans are more likely to succeed in life, at any venture they embark upon? That veterans give back more to their communities and to the nation than people who did not serve? The statistics are out there, and they tend to show that incredibly enough somehow, the combat experience leads to a more productive, enriching life.
Example: how do you explain for the World War II generation's incredible success? Those guys saw TEN THOUSAND TIMES MORE horrific combat than did veterans of Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan COMBINED, and yet they returned home, got to work, re-tooled American factories for peacetime goods and services, completed the Interstate Highway System amongst other things.
Regarding your analysis - I am always wary when statistics are thrown out there, and I don't like the word "expert". What makes a person a PTSD "expert"? I was taught that there is no such thing as an expert, only serious students.
Underscore how veterans in Bay Area communities and across the state engage in destructive, risky and sometimes lethal behaviors.
- Yes it is true veterans engage in risky, destructive behavior - but these kind of behaviors are not exclusive to veterans.
The data shows that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were two and a half times as likely to commit suicide as Californians of the same age with no military service.
- Although suicide IS a symptom of PTSD, again, this is not exclusive of veterans. One of the examples in your article could probably be more realistically described as "death by misadventure" - causes of death can sometimes be creative on death certificates. Drug overdoses are sometimes logged as suicides, although this is not always legit.
They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident.
- This might be so if veterans in that age group are twice as likely to own cars, and/or five and a half times likely to own motorcycles. What are the statistics on automobile and motorcycle ownership?
My point is that raw statistical data is not enough to tell the complete story. While PTSD is real and yes, IT IS LETHAL, way too much is unknown at this time to draw any kind of definitive conclusions.
For example, my community outside Fort Bragg is infested with paratroopers, Green Berets, and other Special Operations soldiers. We are career soldiers, professionals. The five houses that touch my property and across the street include a Green Beret sergeant major, a retired Marine who also did a stint in the French Foreign Legion, a squadron commander from SFOD-D, an Air Force reservist with multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, a North Carolina State Trooper, and a civilian who drives a cement truck. Between us we have over a hundred years of service time, and about twenty-five years of combat time. We all own heroic gun collections, and are all active shooters, hunters, outdoorsmen. Nobody beats their wife; no DUIs, no drama, nothing. The only guy we worry about is the civilian, and all he does is fish.
I can say the same of my many, many brothers in the Special Forces community around the Fort Bragg area, and around the country.
On the other hand, I DO know two guys who committed suicide and yes, I attribute this to PTSD. Two out of several hundred known friends, colleagues and professional acquaintances. I won't bore you with war stories, but yes it is common knowledge amongst professional soldiers that we have some sort of PTSD and it manifests itself in strange ways.
For what it's worth my brother has called me a "trained killer" and he's scared to death of me - and yet I've held a security clearance AND have carried a loaded gun on and off duty for over 27 years, there's nothing on my record worse than a speeding ticket, can't remember the last time I was in a fight of any kind, and the security job I hold is in a field so sensitive that a psych eval and regular urinalysis is required and any kind of reported aberrant behavior is basically a career killer.
Of course, my brother and his wife both think I'm the true-life inspiration for the Rambo movies - AND he's a journalist, so he'd probably be all over your analysis.
If you like, you can use the above for your paper - it would be a great honor for me to be published in my adopted home town of San Francisco.
Needless to say I have not heard back from them . . .
SEAN LINNANE SENDS