April 8, 2012
Bales stands accused of killing several civilians, mostly children, in a
violent rampage in Afghanistan. Since, commentators have speculated on
Bales’ four deployments into combat during the past decade, a brain
injury, other injuries, financial problems at home, witnessing the
deaths of friends, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The incident spurred Time magazine columnist Joe Klein to recently
write that focusing on possible reasons for Bales’ actions reinforces
the wrong stereotypes and does a disservice to those who have served
“There has been little acknowledgement that the overwhelming majority
of our veterans – even the overwhelming majority of those suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries – have come
home to lead productive and, often, inspiring lives,” Klein writes.
“The unfairness of laying the burden of this stereotype on them, after
they assumed the burden of fighting impossible wars for the rest of us,
As one soldier told The Times, he believes 99 percent of returning
military do not have PTSD and those who do need counseling. “They’re not
broken,” he said. “They’re bent.”
Still, of the 2.4 million troops who have been deployed to Afghanistan
and Iraq since September 2001, “estimates suggest that at least 18
percent of those deployed suffer from severe depression or
post-traumatic stress, and over 19 percent have suffered a traumatic
brain injury,” according to information from Valdosta Veterans First, A
Community Blueprint Initiative.
Valdosta is part of Community Blueprint’s national pilot program to smoothly integrate returning soldiers into civilian life.
Valdosta Veterans First’s overview notes that “symptoms of severe
mental health difficulties are as high as 35 percent among Operation
Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans and only about
half are seeking treatment.”
Along with reintegration, employment, education, family strength, life
skills, volunteerism and homelessness, behavioral health is one of the
eight areas targeted by the Community Blueprint program to help
Valdosta’s Greenleaf Counseling Center has been working with returning
veterans for several years. Greenleaf counselors must balance a delicate
situation. They must help these soldiers deal with the memories and
reacquaint themselves with the world of “back home” all the while
remembering that most of these warriors will have to return to combat.
Soldiers had to manage being home while maintaining a certain level of
aggressiveness for when they were re-deployed for combat.
In the past, when soldiers came home from war, they were often finished
with war. In Vietnam, most soldiers served a tour of duty and came
home; however, they could opt to serve additional tours. In World War
II, military personnel served the war’s duration before returning home.
Modern soldiers may serve a year-long tour, come home for