Monday, November 10, 2008

Distress Signal


Distress Signal | The American Prospect

Derek Henderson was jumpy and full of rage when he came home from Iraq in 2003. Over the next four years, he fought with his mother and brothers and got into trouble with the police. Finally, on June 22, 2007, he jumped off a bridge into the Ohio River. He didn't die, though, at least not right away. He tried to swim to a pole that supports the bridge and then slid under the water. He was 27 years old.

Some suicides seem preordained -- or at least planned with determination and care. That was not the case with Henderson. True, he was a mess, physically and emotionally -- and dangerous, too. He carried a box cutter in his pocket and kept a hatchet in his Mercury Cougar. Once he got into a fight at home with his brother, Garland Sharpe. The fight was so savage, Sharpe barely survived. Henderson, who was 5-foot-11 and weighed 160 pounds, reached for a 10-pound weight during the brawl. Luckily, their mother, Diana Henderson, moved it out of the way. Otherwise, says Sharpe, "I probably wouldn't be here."

Henderson was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to medical records that his mother showed to a reporter. He had also made it clear through his conversations, remarks to therapists, and frequent, violent outbursts that he was having problems. At times, his efforts to reach out to people seemed clumsy, even childish, but the message was clear: He could not manage on his own.

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With Veteran's Day upon us, I find it a tragedy that so many are not receiving the help they need.

I personally do not agree with any war. But I do support the men and women who serve. They have laid down their lives for our country. Only to have our country ignore them once they return home. Get involved to honor the vets.


UPDATE:

While doing this post originally, I was focusing on the aspect of the mental health woes of our current vets. I have since heard from readers of this blog outraged because the above article states the following:

The recent failures of the VA are all the more striking because the agency has been acclaimed for its record of health care. In Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours, author Phillip Longman says the VA received a 2006 award from Harvard for "innovation in government," quoting university officials who describe it as a "model for what modern health care management and delivery should look like."

Apparently I overlooked a very important piece of this article. I personally feel our VA system of care is not good at all. The readers who contacted me had horror stories to share of their loved ones suffering at the hands of the VA. If you have some stories to share feel free to email them to me and I will post them.

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