- Honoring our bravest heroes also entails understanding what they may face when they return home...
Veterans are the brave people who risked their lives to fight for our freedoms and have since retired, but many of them end up facing some strange situations that don’t affect most people.
- Rare cancers and severe illnesses
Many veterans end up with rare cancers or severe illnesses because they’ve been exposed to far more risk factors than most people. For example, mesothelioma is particularly pervasive among veterans. According to the Mesothelioma Guide, veterans account for over 30% of all mesothelioma cases in the United States.
For decades, all branches of the U.S. military used asbestos products to create ships, trucks, tanks, aircraft, and buildings, including barracks. Back then, the dangers were not known except by leading companies in the asbestos industry and asbestos provided excellent insulation and fireproofing. Unfortunately, this exposed troops to this dangerous mineral, especially when buildings were damaged, and those impacted didn’t realize it for several decades.
Veterans who developed an illness after being exposed to asbestos often seek disability benefits from the VA. Mesothelioma primarily affects veterans who worked in demolition, carpentry, construction, and mining, as well as aboard ships and in shipyards, and auto repair when working with clutch facings and brake linings.
- Intense nightmares
Most people have had nightmares before, but veterans tend to have severe and intense nightmares that often involve reliving trauma. Often, they’ll thrash around and scream in their sleep because it’s so terrifying.
Although nobody knows for sure why people have nightmares, they are believed to arise from the subconscious mind when a person has been feeling and thinking negatively or with fear. In other words, many people believe nightmares are the frightening equivalent of dreams and which one you experience depends on what you’ve been feeding your subconscious prior to sleep.
People who have recurring nightmares often feel stuck in the same place concerning their fears, stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Nightmares also tend to play out old traumas that left the person with intense feelings of guilt, shame, and regret, which makes sense considering the horrors veterans are exposed to in combat.
One of the worst things veterans experience is becoming homeless. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), .18% of the U.S. population experiences homelessness. However, 13% of all homeless people are veterans.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any government program in place to take care of veterans and make sure they have a place to live and an income. You would think that would be a given, considering their sacrifice, but that’s not how it works in the United States.
- Severe PTSD
Although Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with veterans, it’s something anyone can develop after experiencing trauma. However, veterans tend to experience PTSD to the extreme. Many vets won’t even talk about what they saw while they were deployed.
For many, this includes nightmares, flashbacks while awake, disturbing feelings and thoughts, and being triggered into becoming defensive or angry with almost no provocation due to residing in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
- Missing limbs
There are plenty of people across the world who are missing limbs; some were born without arms or legs, and others had accidents. Veterans end up with missing limbs, feet, hands, fingers, and toes often when they’re injured in combat as a result of being hit by IEDs. However, many vets also lose limbs because due to illness.
According to a 2020 study, the VA saw a 34% increase in care related to limb loss from amputation between 2009 and 2019. This means the problem is not getting better. Veterans usually qualify for disability after an amputation, but there is a cap on the amount of compensation they can receive. This is known as the amputation rule. For example, amputations below the knee are rated at 40%, which means vets with below-the-knee amputations can only receive up to 40% of the threshold of compensation.
Veterans who have lost a leg are sometimes eligible for monthly disability compensation, but approval depends on how many limbs have been lost, how well they can use their remaining limbs, if they can be more functional with a prosthesis, and whether they need help with daily, personal tasks like bathing and cooking.
Veterans deserve our admiration and respect
Nobody can know the horrors veterans face in combat, even when they tell the stories. Our veterans experience some of the most intense and difficult situations as a result of their service. They have done and seen things that most people can’t even imagine, and as such, they deserve our absolute admiration and respect.