Maybe they spent 6 months in a war zone. Maybe it was six tours. Maybe it was a full career of military service. During the Civil War, 16.5% of Union personnel were killed within the theater of action and 12.7% were injured. Through our 20th Century wars, about 2.7% were killed and 4.7% wounded.
Thankfully, warfare doesn’t outright kill American military personnel at the rates it used to: modern military tactics and technologies, as well as battlefield medicine, see to that. During American 21st century conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in pursuit of terrorist combatants, just 0.3% have been killed and 1.9% wounded.
What once would kill is now too often a condition that must be lived with forever. Today, more than 19.7% of living veterans carry a service-connected disability, and 5.7% of veterans have an official disability rating of 70% or more. Those numbers are rising, and an uncounted number have not sought official disability status or have not been rated.
Many carry a life long burden of physical and mental illness: long term physical injury, depression & anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic distress (PTSD), or tinnitus, among many other conditions.
The consequences of war are far more varied and long lasting than we once understood. It’s not just a medical condition obvious to others. Unlike those who have fallen, these are men and women all around us and they can still be helped with our support. They carry scars we can never see.
Those numbers make it easy for us to tune out, but each one is a real human life. And they’re people who we know, love, and care about. People who need our support because they pay a price everyday for answering a nation’s call to duty.
So on this Memorial Day, remember the fallen, but reach out a hand of support to your neighbor who still carries the consequences of war every day.