Soldiers > Blowback

Surviving War, Falling to Suicide

The American Conservative

By Kelley Vlahos

January 1, 2013

Brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, and depression are as hazardous as any battlefield -- and kill more of our veterans.

The photograph on the front page of the Washington Post showed an Afghanistan veteran with two internally powered prosthetic legs besting his friend — an Army sergeant who works with amputees at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center — in a playful wrestling match on the floor.

So common are these images today – virile young ex-soldiers and Marines running marathons, prevailing in tests of endurance and strength despite their robotic extremities – that we’ve started to see past their horrific injuries and how they got them.

But how do we replace the spirit of a soldier who lost the will to live somewhere on the road between Ramadi and Fallujah or in the hills of southeastern Afghanistan? Can a damaged brain be reinvented? For every advance the government has made in achieving renewed physical independence for our wounded veterans, it has continued to struggle with ways to restore their mental fitness. The wars overseas might be winding down, but they are coming home with a quiet vengeance.