Struggles Of A Warrior Nation

Whether they went to war in Japan in the 40s, Vietnam in the 60s, or Iraq in this decade, all Navajo Nation veterans come home facing the same challenge: dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but without adequate help from the Veterans Affairs. Nearly 22,000 Native Americans have served, or are currently serving in the armed forces in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. An estimated 30 percent return and suffer from PTSD. The conditions many face on coming home, however, are hardly those needed to help them through the psychological and physical damages inflicted in war. No Veterans Affairs hospital exists on the Navajo Nation, the country’s largest reservation. This forces veterans, often desperate for psychological help, to drive hours away, to cities like Albuquerque or Salt Lake City. But some face racial discrimination or an unsympathetic psychologist there. Often dealing with anxiety disorders, nightmares, or suicidal thoughts, some try traditional healing methods, but many resort to alcohol or drug abuse, as they try to keep their lives together on a land that is as harsh as it is beautiful. These veterans’ struggle is only one facet of the issues Native Americans face on reservations, where most substandard healthcare and the highest rates of poverty in the country are the norms. This project was undertaken in December 2008.

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