A Question of Priorities: Future Soldiers or Today's Veterans
As a soldier enters a crowded marketplace, sensors mounted on his helmet automatically scan faces in the crowd, identifying a known insurgent; a cursor in the heads-up display highlights the target and cues the weapon, which can be set to stun or kill; a simple voice command unlocks the trigger.
Given the nation's experience with Pentagon procurement, it's fair to predict that the futuristic weaponry won't work while the advanced body armor will give way to a butter knife. More troubling is the notion that future soldiers will be "enhanced with prosthetics" and fed "smart drugs." The Pentagon should put those ideas aside until it enhances its ability to provide mental health care to veterans. [more ...]
Ignoring the mental health problems of traumatized soldiers has a high social cost: an increase in crime, in prisoners, in broken families and wasted lives. That's what happened when the nation ignored the needs of returning Vietnam veterans:
Hundreds were imprisoned for crimes they committed as a result of drug abuse, alcoholism and manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder, all associated with their military service. At one time, there were more than 200,000 of these veterans in our prisons.
Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the neglect of mental health care for veterans remains an issue.
Despite the heroic efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs, less that 40 percent of service members diagnosed with PTSD receive mental health services.
Let's put aside planned expenditures for futuristic weapons and biochemically enhanced soldiers and put the money where it will benefit society today: in adequate mental health treatment for veterans.
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