Almost 75% of 18-29 year olds personally know someone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. As these brave veterans come home, it is important that we all do our part to help in their transition back into civilian life, especially since many of these veterans will be starting or returning to college for the first time. Despite the sacrifices they have made, these veterans aren’t looking for special treatment – they just want the opportunity to do well as students and have a good experience.
There has been significant news coverage of the emotional and physical injuries that veterans deal with as a result of working in a war zone. These are very real problems that some veterans must address, but there are also significant assets they bring because of their experience and training. If you know or attend school with a veteran, the best thing you can do is help them have a normal experience, let them decide how much they want to discuss or emphasize their service, and be patient as they acclimate to their new routine.
It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of a mental disorder or cognitive condition. These “hidden injuries of war” are not surprising given the trauma of serving in a combat zone. It is important that veterans struggling with emotional health issues get the support they need as unaddressed problems can lead to serious consequences like substance abuse or suicide. With the right support and treatment, veterans dealing with mental health issues can still have a smooth transition and a healthy future.
After sacrificing so much and working so hard to protect our country, our veterans deserve to be given a smooth, healthy transition as they return. This means ensuring that they have access to the professionals and services they need to address the physical and emotional wounds of war. You can become an advocate by joining IAVA’s (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) action network. Sign up now to receive occasional action alerts about ways to get involved.