Saturday, July 05, 2008

Independence Day and the numbers

By Carol Gee

Independence Day, 2008 was marked across the nation by flags flying, parades proceeding, picnics unpacking, and patriotism playing out, ad infinitum. Today's post is about some important numbers that are associated with yesterday, July 4, 2008, the day we celebrated our nation's birthday. The highlight of my own celebration was watching a long parade in the town of my birth, some 71 years ago in May. There were too many homemade floats to count. There was one marching drum corps, one Native American in war paint skillfully riding bareback on a spirited horse, and there were several church congregations represented by members riding on the backs of flatbed trucks. There was a whole herd of old and new Beattles (the VW automotive type), sporting special paint jobs, umbrellas or flags. Onlookers were two and three deep the entire length of Main Street, the parade route. There are additional numbers, of a more serious nature, I want to highlight in the remainder of this post.

July 4, 1776 - July 4, 2008 = 232 years. Recent S/SW posts have closed with a sentence about what was happening on the same date in 1787, the year of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Today's blurb below focuses on an important accomplishment of the men at the convention. They figured out how to balance power between the two branches of Congress.

Official days left in office for George W. Bush = 198. Finally! It is below 200. We can see the coming end of this disastrous administration.

U.S. confirmed deaths in the war in Iraq = 4113. Members of the U.S. military died for our country during the Revolutionary War. The total number is unknown, but Wikipedia carries an estimate of 25,000.

And there is another war death. The "soldier made famous in Iraq photo," according to Myrtle Beach Online, died of an apparent drug overdose. He had called a taxi to take him to the hospital, but it was too late. To quote the facts of the story:

A former Army medic made famous by a photograph that showed him carrying an injured Iraqi boy during the first week of the war has died of an apparent overdose, police said.

Joseph Patrick Dwyer died last week at a hospital in Pinehurst, according to the Boles Funeral Home. He was 31.

Last week, Dwyer called a local taxi service to take him to the hospital after an apparent overdose, Capt. Floyd Thomas of the Pinehurst Police Department told the Fayetteville Observer. When the driver arrived, Dwyer said he couldn't get to the door, according to a police report.

Police kicked in the door at Dwyer's request, and he was taken by ambulance to a Pinehurst hospital. Thomas said bottles of prescription pills were found near Dwyer when police arrived. The former medic died later the night of June 28, according to authorities.

Dwyer served with the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment of Fort Stewart, Ga. He earned the Combat Medical Badge and other military awards.

It is hard to find out how many members of the military have committed suicide over these recent years. The VA is studying Guard and Reserve suicides among veterans returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. They make up more than half that total. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health believes that suicides among vets returned from Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the number of combat deaths. The year 2006 marked the highest rate of military suicides in 26 years. A well respected source, Science News, reported that, to quote the headline, "One In Five Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Suffer From PTSD Or Major Depression":

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan -- 300,000 in all -- report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slight more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

. . . The RAND study estimates the societal costs of PTSD and major depression for two years after deployment range from about $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case. Depending whether the economic cost of suicide is included, the RAND study estimates the total society costs of the conditions for two years range from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.

Mental Health Issues -- Before my retirement I worked as a mental health counselor. Over those 12 years I worked with many clients who were diagnosed with Major Depression or PTSD. Those suffering from these conditions are often at risk of dying. These can be truly life threatening mental health conditions. I often worried over the weekend whether one or more of my clients would be able to show up for their appointments the following week. Fortunately all those many clients who thought of suicide made it back. Those few who almost attempted suicide were able to make an outcry in time to save their own lives, because they were in treatment, which was the key. According to the stories highlighted today, far too few in the military are getting the kind of treatment needed to save their lives. Members of the military get the finest treatment in history for their physical wounds. Unfortunately effective treatment for mental wounds is another matter . . . a tragically serious matter for the military and for the nation.

This day in history: Constitution Convention, July 5, 1787. 11-member committee proposed representation by state in Senate and population in House.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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