Featured Stories

Please, veterans, reach for help

by: STEFAN ZAKLIN, Recent statistics appear to show that Oregon troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to die of suicide than in combat.

I was very saddened to read the article ' 'Suicide epidemic' hits veterans' (Aug. 21), especially with the Vietnam veterans. I think this gives credence to the fact that the traumas of war remain with our military men and women for their entire lives.

Our country owes our full support to all veterans, especially those suffering from the psychological scars incurred while protecting our freedom.

My husband was in Vietnam from 1966 to 1969. He was extremely proud to have served his country. He experienced a great deal of pain after his time in Vietnam and took his own life in 1984. I was 26 years old when my husband committed suicide - our children were 5 years old and 2 at the time.

It has been almost 25 years, and I still feel a deep sorrow for his loss. If you are a veteran in emotional pain, please reach out for help. Your loved ones want and need you.

My husband's death had a profound impact on our children. My two sons grew up without the support and guidance of their father, which was very difficult and painful for them. Family members never really recover from losing a loved one to suicide.

Thank you to all members of the military. As an American, I sincerely appreciate the sacrifices you make. If my letter causes even one individual to seek the professional help they need, then sharing my experience is very worthwhile.

Joan Robertson

Kansas City, Mo.

Vets need to learn how to use system

I am a Korean War vet, having spent about 18 months in-country from early July 1950 through the late December 1951.

I used the GI bill to attend college. I used help through the Department of Veterans Affairs to purchase my first house. I currently use the Portland VA Medical Center for my medical care, including counseling for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yet, that stuff lingers on and perhaps increases when you get old and are exposed to the media's constantly negative reporting on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Web comments for ' 'Suicide epidemic' hits veterans' (Aug. 21) are all terribly negative on the treatment of veterans by the VA. I have a totally opposite opinion of the care and treatment I have received over the years.

I learned how the system works, and I work it. I do not yell or get angry. I stay calm and ask for help and guidance when I get to a hurdle I can't overcome. It works.

The VA staff is absolutely swamped, and it is a huge organization so there is a built-in inertia. Of course, the same is true in a large civilian hospital.

Having served my country in a major war, I know I was changed - and for the worse - but I decided a long time ago that I would not allow myself to be defeated by myself.

I know some vets are too damaged to completely recover, but I do see vets who wimp out and don't do enough for themselves. Pity, because so many of us decided to succeed one way or another and those who do the complaining get the attention from the media.

Thanks to every vet who served with pride, and who is living a life of their own making.

William S. Hamilton

Woodburn

VA could do better job helping veterans

To every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform, I salute you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the sacrifices you have given our country.

I know war is hell. Some of us come home with emotional scars, some of us come home with physical wounds (' 'Suicide epidemic' hits veterans' Aug. 21). I hope that you can find peace in your lives and that the love of God will carry you through your wounds.

I, too, am a veteran - one from Vietnam. Our war was hated by the U.S. citizens, and I came home to no friends, only family. I came home to people spitting on me for doing my job. I came home with a physical disability I still struggle with today.

Getting the VA to do anything is a waste of my time. They deny everything. I have had to prove everything to the VA for something they know nothing about; many of the workers weren't even alive then.

Good luck. They sure aren't into doing the best for the veterans who kept our country safe.

Bruce Giggers

Clackamas

War is challenge to institutions, too

Thank you for your most informative article about veteran suicides (' 'Suicide epidemic' hits veterans' Aug. 21).

It is sad to hear so many of my Vietnam counterparts are choosing suicide over enjoying life. The idea of suicide has never crossed my mind, and I hope many others can say the same thing.

The VA and the Department of Defense health care systems always have done a superb job taking care of us - the wars, indeed, present the biggest challenge to all these institutions. Thanks also for mentioning VA social worker Linda Rotering. She was in Vietnam, too.

Dr. Marco Antonio Endara

San Antonio, Texas

Military counters lessons of parents

Most of us teach our children to live by the Golden Rule - to not be bullies. We teach them to respect the privacy, the property and the human rights of others.

When young people enlist in the military they are not far from childhood. The military machine can rarely reprogram a human so completely that parental training and societal ethos are completely erased. Can anyone really be surprised that one product of the disconnect between a civil life and state-sanctioned violence is suicide?

Pamela Allee

North Portland