Friday, November 10, 2006

 

Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?

My grandfather flew Navy fighters and bombers (just about every plane they had) in the South Pacific during World War II, and he came back safe and sound. And I thank God for it (I wouldn't get to write this blog if he hadn't).

But on Veterans Day, while honoring all of those who have fought for our country, I find my mind turning to several veterans that are still waiting to be properly served. The incidence of mental illness and dependency issues is very high among veterans. Sadly, all vets do not receive the medical care, physical or mental, that they deserve when they come out of the service. Sadly, we know what can happen when people with severe mental illness do not receive the mental health care that is needed. And some veterans, left without such treatment, have ended up on Tennessee's death row.

Greg Thompson served in the Navy, but, during his tour, people began to notice irregularities in his behavior. He would over react to minor stimuli, cry uncontrollably, and seem to experience a different reality than those around him. Sadly, rather than treat him, the Navy dishonorably discharged him. Thompson has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and bipolar disorder. In 1985, suffering from delusions caused by his mental illness, Thompson, while not truly understanding his actions, committed a tragic murder and was sentenced to death. Thompson was nearly executed in February.

Abu-Ali Abdur Rahman, after years of incredible brutal physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his father, joined the Navy. In the Navy, Abu-Ali, then called James Jones, was likewise repeatedly abused and raped. Eventually, Abu-Ali was diagnosed with disassociative disorder and PTSD. Abu-Ali was discharged and never received the treatment that he needed. He now sits on death row, although there are serious questions regarding the reliability of his conviction.

Daryl Holton was nearly executed two months ago. Holton had served in the first Gulf War and had, even during his tour of duty, been diagnosed with major depression, with suicidal impulses and symptoms of psychosis. But, once again, Holton never received the full course of treatment that he needed. After his discharge, Holton's mental illness worsened. He talked of committing suicide and eventually, in an attempt to "save" his children, whom he loved more than anything, from a horrible existence, he killed them and planned to kill himself.

All the deaths in the cases of Greg Thompson, Abu-Ali, and Daryl Holton were tragic. But the tragedy is compounded by the fact that these deaths could have been prevented if we had provided our veterans with the health care services that they need. On this Veterans Day, let us, as a people, resolve to truly honor our veterans, by providing the care they deserve, rather than executions.
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