The United States Military is a revered institution responsible for the defense and protection of the nation. It comprises brave men and women who put their lives on the line to safeguard their country. However, there is an increasing concern that the military is failing in its duty to take care of the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its service members.
Physical health is a critical aspect of a service member’s well-being. Yet, despite the military’s emphasis on physical fitness, there are numerous instances where the physical health of service members is overlooked. The heavy training and combat engagements often lead to various physical injuries, from musculoskeletal problems to severe wounds. Unfortunately, the military healthcare system is usually not equipped to handle such issues adequately, leading to prolonged suffering and poor quality of life for those affected. Inadequate medical resources, understaffing, and lengthy wait times for care are all contributing factors to this failure.
Mental health is another area where the military significantly falls short. Service members are subjected to high-stress environments, traumatic events, and long-term separation from families, all of which can lead to mental health disorders such as PTS, depression, and anxiety. This can be seen in the high suicide rates in the military. In 2021, research found that:
30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 have died by suicide – compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years.
That is, military suicide rates are four times higher than deaths that occurred during military operation (https://www.uso.org/
stories/2664-military-suicide- rates-are-at-an-all-time-high- heres-how-were-trying-to-help . Despite the increased awareness of these issues, the military’s approach to mental health often lacks the necessary resources, proactive strategies, and cultural sensitivity to address these problems effectively. There is a pervasive stigma attached to mental health issues within the military, discouraging many service members from seeking the help they need.
The spiritual health of service members is often the most neglected aspect. Spirituality, which can provide comfort, resilience, and moral guidance, is vital, particularly in life-threatening situations that service members often encounter. However, the military fails to provide for this need adequately. Chaplain services are often understaffed and under-resourced, and there is a lack of understanding and respect for the diverse spiritual beliefs held by service members.
In conclusion, the military’s failure to adequately care for the physical, mental, and spiritual health of its service members is a significant concern. This failure not only affects the service members but also impacts their families and society at large. The military has not even begun to deal with the effects of the military has not even begun to deal with the effects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on family health and well-being.
There is an urgent need for systemic changes, including improved resources, comprehensive healthcare services, and a shift in cultural attitudes towards mental and spiritual health. The failure of the military to effectively take care of service members’ holistic health exacerbates the problem they will experience as veterans. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs have still not effectively solved the coordination and communication issues to ensure a smooth transition from military service to veteran status.
Donald C. Bolduc