Our National Disgrace 22 Military and Veteran Suicides a Day

We are facing a national disgrace regarding how poorly we treat our men and women in uniform and our veterans. The average wait time for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to obtain approval of a service connected disability and begin to receive their benefits is around 320 days; while 245,000 vets waited a year or more to start receiving their benefits. These intolerable wait-times have contributed to the despair felt by the nearly 150,000 homeless veterans and the 140,000 vets held in State and Federal prisons. Vets living on the streets is disgraceful. We sent them to the Iraq and Afghan wars and then ordered them back on multiple deployments. The unbelievable psychological stress that was caused by making it home alive from one tour of duty, only to be told to prepare to go back into a combat environment yet again, cannot be measured.
The emotional toll on the military members and their families can never be appreciated unless you experienced it yourself. With an estimated 300,000 men and women expected to leave the military each of the next four years, the transition to civilian life, readjustment to family, and the need for employment will multiply the problems faced by our military families and veterans. While our outstanding military medical personnel have saved more lives than ever before from combat related injuries, the number of severely wounded soldiers who have lost one or more limbs has added to the trauma and human costs of these wars. We need to provide the help these men and women require to recover physically and mentally from such life-altering wounds. For these military members the initial joy of being alive and having made it home will quickly be overcome by the reality of having loss limbs, of questioning their value to themselves and their families. It is imperative that they be fitted with the best prosthetics to get them up and moving as fast as possible, and start turning that despair into a realization that they can overcome the loss of limbs.
Congress and the White House must authorize the money needed to ensure that our military members and veterans get the care they’ve earned.
Furthermore, the business community must aggressively recruit and train our veterans for jobs as the military downsizes. Too often the soldiers who fight the battles become a mere statistic, a data point on a chart, an empty campaign promise, and then are quickly forgotten as the nation moves on with the desire to turn the page and focus on new issues. We need leaders who recognize the scope of this situation and who are committed to ensuring that no soldier, no veteran is left behind. There can be no greater priority than stopping these suicides!
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army officer. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders.
For more information about Paul Okum and “Leadership DNA,” visit

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