Demonstrating unshakable fortitude and unwavering commitment to duty, our men and women in uniform served tour after tour, fighting block by block to help the Iraqi people seize the chance for a better future. And on December 18, 2011, their mission came to an end.
More than 2 million U.S. troops served in the Iraq war, many of them on multiple deployments. According to CAP analysts Matt Duss and Peter Juul’s updated Iraq War Ledger, nearly 5,000 of them lost their lives, and more than 30,000 suffered injuries. By some estimates, those numbers could be much higher. A Time magazine article highlighted one such toll, traumatic brain injuries:
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, has called Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) “the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Though no clear statistics exist for TBI, it is estimated that there are between 115,000 and 400,000 veterans who now suffer from at least mild versions of it.
Obama, in his statement, cited the sacrifices made in “wounds not always seen, but forever felt.” He issued a call to support veterans and their families:
Now, our Nation reaffirms our commitment to serve veterans of Iraq as well as they served us — to uphold the sacred trust we share with all who have worn the uniform. Our future is brighter for their service, and today, we express our gratitude by saying once more: Welcome home.
Indeed, the Defense Department is aggressively working on issues around traumatic brain injuries.
The Obama administration is also pushing for other government programs that work toward alleviating the burdens of veterans. Even as the numbers ease, vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan war are disproportionately represented among the unemployed. So the Obama administration has measures specifically targeting them embedded in its wider proposal for a jobs program.
Veteran care has a long way to go — homelessness, for instance, remains rampant among veterans. Creating a National Day of Honor is a good start.