Welcome home, folks:
The Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team made history with its second deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom last year, becoming the first National Guard unit to deploy twice and have its own area of operation.
Gov. Bev Perdue was the first to greet the recently returned troops at Raleigh's RBC Center. She offered the services of the state to the troops should they need them. "You're the best of what North Carolina has to offer and what this country is all about," Perdue said.
While I share the relief that many are feeling bringing our brave men and women back home, for many of these troops, this is merely another chapter in their book of suffering and sacrifice. And they need us, you and me, now more than ever.
Statistically speaking, and (unfortunately) we have a strong sampling on which to base these statistics, somewhere between 1,000 to 1,600 of them are likely to be suffering alcohol or other substance abuse problems, and that suffering will become more acute as they attempt to transition back to civilian life.
And while the casualty counts (7 dead, 29 wounded) may seem light in comparison with a few years ago, the 30th was by no means in a "safe and secure" position for the last year. A lot of missions, a lot of movement, a lot of exposure. Especially considering this was the second deployment for a large percent of these troops, several hundred (possibly as many as 800) will be suffering some degree of PTSD.
Even if you factor in the overlap between the two above paragraphs (some suffer both), the resulting number (let's say 1,000) is still not the whole story, is it? These afflictions have a direct and detrimental impact on families. And if gone untreated, they can rip those families apart, impacting the extended families in the process.
By now you may be wondering why I'm exploring these issues here, on a (mostly) political website. Well, there are a couple of reasons. First and foremost is education, especially for those who are a family member or coworker or boss or friend of a returning combat veteran. Or a clinician or teacher or clergy, or anybody else who may come into contact (professionally) with a veteran or family member. Early detection and treatment is critical; these things rarely fix themselves, and the more time passes before treatment the more that family is put at risk.
The second reason is a call out to elected and appointed officials. DHHS, like other State entities, is operating on a contracted budget. Cuts have been made, and it's likely that more cuts are coming down the road. We owe it to these folks to make sure that cuts don't endanger their families even more.
The smaller satellite mental health operations are crucial; if you tell someone who's still in denial they must travel to another county to get treatment they're not even sure they need, they won't go. They just won't. And that family will pay a heavy price for that budget-cutting move. Now, once they've been assessed as needing treatment, they may have to travel elsewhere to obtain such. But that first step is the hardest to make. Don't make it any harder.
The Governor's Focus on Returning Combat Veterans and Their Families has populated a list of partners on its website where both education and services can be found. Pass it along.