I don’t often quote sources from The New York Times, but in mid-November, David Brooks wrote a piece called “Fighting the Spiritual Void.” He stated without equivocation that “[t]rauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one.”
He could not be more correct.
The Heritage Foundation convened a panel to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide from the faith angle. The panel was chaired by myself, a 30-year veteran of the Army Special Forces, and the members included Richard Glickstein, an advocate working to move the government to appropriately address the crisis; Dr. David LeMay, a medical doctor who specializes in rehabilitation; and Lt. Col. Damon Friedman, an active-duty Air Force special operator, who also leads a veterans service organization called Shield of Faith Missions.
The panel laid out quite a story.
Friedman presented several personal anecdotes from his own trauma, and those of some of the veterans with whom he works. The depth of despair some of our warriors face is profound, and the fact that they are not getting the help they need is discouraging. He also showed how faith-based programs like his own often take the lead in helping these veterans.
Glickstein highlighted the way government efforts have failed—and offered a possible solution. He said that in the last 10 years, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have together run 1,100 different programs addressing PTSD and veteran suicide, at enormous expense.
During that time, the average of 21 veteran suicides per day has not changed.