As threats around the world increase and with Islamic State militants within striking distance of Baghdad, there are calls for more American boots on the ground. President Obama’s ever-evolving strategy is being criticized from both sides of the political spectrum. The toll of the third-longest war in American history is telling and the total cost is still being tallied. The results of the continued deployments has been devastating -- many veterans return with physical as well as mental disabilities and some decide to take their own lives. A new report shows that for male veterans, 18-29 years of age, there are 83.3 suicides for every 100,000 -- meaning young vets are more at risk than more seasoned ones, for whom the rate is 32.1 per 100,000.
Does that put vets more at risk than the general public? Definitely. For those 18-29 non-vets the rate of suicide is only 17.6, almost five times lower than veterans of the same age. For older non-vets, the rate is 20.9 for every 100,000. What has researchers scratching their heads is the suicide rates among young female vets that is almost 12 times higher than that of non-vets of the same age group. The study looked at 11 years of data, and during that time period 40,571 men and 2,637 women veterans took their own lives.
Women face different challenges in the military and many of those challenges come not from the enemy but from their own comrades. The Pentagon estimates, according to the Los Angeles Times, that 10 percent of women in the military are raped and another 13 percent are “subject to unwanted sexual contact.”
Added to this mix is the military divorce rate among female soldiers, which hit 8 percent in 2011. Among female Marines the divorce rate hit 9.5 percent. And while the male divorce rate has declined only slightly since then, the female soldier divorce rate has dropped to 6.5 percent and 6.2 percent for female Marines, according to www.military.com.
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Yes, we have an all-volunteer military guided by a legislative and executive branches where only 18 percent have served in our armed forces. Before we shake our fingers in disgust, that’s more than twice the percentage (7 percent) of the general public who have served in the military.
We should think long and hard before we send our men and women into harm’s way. The cost in men, women and materiel is just too great. Our more than eight years in Iraq taught us the lesson that we are incapable of planting the spear of democracy in a land rife with ancient religious and tribal divisions.