Dani Sevilla writes in a guest op-ed for IC:
Within the United States there are over one and a half million service members that have served in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over thirty thousand have been physically wounded, but many more have experienced less visible, psychological wounds. Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have emerged as signature injuries of these conflicts, with recent reports suggesting an increase in rates of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, and domestic violence among returning service members and veterans.
These traumatic affects of conflict, left unaddressed, could have far-reaching negative consequences for the individuals affected, their families, and our country. Survivor Corps’ work in some of the most conflict affected countries in the world has shown community reintegration to be the key factor in those that overcome their traumatic experiences, and those that are consumed by them.
Ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are creating a generation of veterans in the United States from all branches of the armed services and all 50 states who are struggling to overcome physical and psychosocial injuries. Most combat veterans convalescing in military hospitals across the country will survive physically, but getting on with their lives after returning home to their families and communities is proving a significant challenge for hundreds of thousands. Among the 1.6 million who have served since 2001, suicide is on the rise, as is unemployment and incidents of substance abuse and domestic violence.
The successful reintegration of returning service members is an issue that will have a long-lasting impact on American society, and may become the single defining struggle facing this new generation of veterans. Survivor Corps and its partners are determined to avoid the mistakes made when veterans returned from Vietnam, which resulted in tens of thousands of post-war suicides and over 200,000 men and women living on the streets.
To head off this tragic outcome, Survivor Corps will build peer support programs at the community level that will bring service members and veterans together for mutual support and encourage both individual responsibility and collective action to help others in need.
Survivor Corps is offering an alternative “treatment” that can be made readily available in all communities, regardless of proximity to traditional military or government centers of support. Our approach is nimble enough to address the needs of individual survivors, while still broad enough to build a coalition of survivors and service providers working to effect long-term positive change.
This new program will help the recovery and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of returning U.S. service members at a critical time for them and their country.