Estimates suggest the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will produce more than 1 million veterans.
In this week’s news section, I highlighted the lack of media coverage on veteran’s issues. I spoke with local members of Iraq Veterans Against the War in January after Kenneth Ellis III, who was being treated at the VA Medical Center for PTSD, was killed by Albuquerque police. He was pulled over for bad plates, and stepped out of the car with a gun to his head.
Romeo Rocha, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said he hoped Ellis’ death would give PTSD more media attention. "It's still showing up, but it's not making headlines anymore,” he told the Alibi in January.
Even if American media isn’t focused on the issue right now, an Italian documentary at the Venice Film Festival follows three veterans who served in Iraq and how they were treated by the military. It’s called Ward 54, so named for the psychiatric ward of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 2005, Mark Benjamin penned a piece for Salon.com that shined a light on the hospital’s neglect of PTSD patients.
Benjamin spoke of the substandard care for mental disorders caused by the war in a “Democracy Now!” interview:
“... the entire time that they’re at Walter Reed, the Army seems to be more bent on trying to determine that their problems were not, in fact, caused by the war and that, in fact, these soldiers were just crazy of their own accord.”
Though, as the AP story on Ward 54 points out, a report to Congress last month shows that these wars have produced significantly high rates of suicides for the U.S. military. More than 1,100 service members killed themselves between 2005 and 2009. The suicide rate is only going up in 2010.