Fighting never ends for soldiers

Post date: May 25, 2011 11:42:02 PM

Berkshire Eagle May 22, 2011

They've fought battles in faraway lands; they've saved lives under a hail of gunfire and shrapnel. And now, after months or years abroad, they've finally come home.

But that doesn't mean the war is over.

"Being out of your native country for a year or so at a time is very strange to a lot of us," said David Robbins, 30, who served in Iraq with the National Guard until last year and now works in North Adams for the state Department of Veterans' Services. "[Civilians] just don't know what it's like to actually leave and know that your life could possibly end."

For many veterans, coming home is the ultimate reward for time spent on the battlefield. But for others, the return to civilian life is more challenging than they ever thought it would be.

Transitioning from military rules and vigilance to a family and job can be stressful -- and that's before post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, drugs or financial troubles are added to the mix.

The stresses can become tragic.

n The U.S. Army said 2010 was the sixth consecutive year in which military suicides increased, and April alone last year had 16 suspected suicides.

n The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs -- which provides patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents -- estimates that nearly 107,000 veterans are homeless every night, comprising nearly one-fifth of the nation's homeless population.