Since the Vietnam War, the diagnosis and awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury in veterans has substantially increased.
About 2.3 million American veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — roughly 20 percent of servicemembers — have been diagnosed with PTSD since coming back to the states, yet half of those diagnosed will not seek treatment.
As a result, one of the concerns members of the military face when returning home from an overseas tour is the long-term mental-health effects, as well as treatment for these conditions.
The American Veterans Center and U.S. Navy Memorial chose to address these often unknown or unspoken concerns in the 4th annual Wounded Warriors Experience event Nov. 7 at the Arleigh Burke Theatre at the U.S. Navy Memorial Museum Naval Heritage Center.
In a four-part series that will be televised on the Pentagon Channel this week, four panels discussed suicide prevention and how veterans can successfully transition from the military to educational and workforce environments. The event was hosted by Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for Fox News. The series will be broadcast on Saturday at 2 a.m., 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 a.m., 1 p.m. and 10 p.m., all EDT on the Pentagon Channel.
American veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan joined forces in the program’s first set to discuss how each have recovered and rehabilitated since the war.
Guest panelist Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schlitz — who lost 85 percent of his skin due to burns — said his darkest days in recovery came after his 10 months in the ICU and burn ward.
“Your morale goes up, ’cause you’re not in the hospital anymore, but then you also have that free time to sit back and think about things,” explained Schlitz, who served in the “Triangle of Death,” a region south of Baghdad known for some of the heaviest violence in the Iraq War.
Schlitz added that although the system is not perfect, each veteran’s mental and physical problems will be completely taken care of, referring to his personal testimony.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.