Monday, June 27, 2011

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day

One year ago today, Congress passed Senate Resolution 541 establishing June 27 as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day. Three years prior, the inspiration for this day came from the tragic death of Staff Sgt. Joe Biel. A North Dakota National Guardsman with the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion, Biel took his own life on April 26, 2007 following the completion of his second tour in Iraq. After his death Biel's fellow Guardsmen grappled with their understanding of the invisible wounds that had so clearly beset their friend. Determined to raise awareness they shared Biel's story with Sen. Kent Conrad who eventually developed the resolution which would establish Sgt. Biel's birthday as a national day of education and remembrance for all those who too often suffer in silence.

This June 27, should serve as a reminder that despite the massive scale at which our military missions are carried out, the burdens of these conflicts are truly borne at the lowest levels; manifested through individual sacrifice. The story of Staff Sgt. Biel, and the thousands like him, who suffer the afflictions of these invisible wounds should remind us that each sacrifice has a face of its own, that each individual bears the burdens of conflict in a distinct and personal way.

For thousands of Citizen Warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the face of that sacrifice has been symptoms of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The Department of Veterans Affairs conservatively estimates that some 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from PTSD. An additional 320,000 will have suffered some type of TBI. These have become the signature wounds of our current operations, the signature sacrifice for an entire generation of service members.

The Reserve Officers Association strongly advocates for a continued emphasis on recognition and treatment for both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Both conditions require continued research into the most effective treatments and each requires heightened awareness and public support to ensure a healthy and peaceful transition for all service members returning home. On this PTSD Awareness Day 2011, ROA encourages all individuals, citizen and soldier alike, to learn more about PTSD and to actively support all veterans returning from conflict.

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