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I find your choice of political cartoon for the Sept. 20 Opinion page rather appalling. It was neither clever nor thought-provoking, as political cartoons are supposed to be. It was downright blunt and offensive, and way off the mark.

The cartoon featuring Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman and a right-wing nut more than just implies that if you do not believe in evolution and other left-wing causes, then you are a crazed nut-job when, in fact, it has been left-wing activists who have resorted to bullying and vioence — not the other way around. Clever humor and innuendo is one thing; the right can take a ribbing better than the left. But name-calling is something else entirely.

I would expect a little better judgment in the future about which cartoons you choose.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott C. Roach

Bagram, Afghanistan

All can help to address suicide

Alarming suicide rates suggest that current programs are not sufficient in meeting the needs of our servicemembers.

With a decade of active warfare under our belt, the lasting affects should not be surprising. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) have gained national attention, resulting in the expansion of behavioral health, MTBI and substance abuse services across the world. Since 2001, roughly 300,000 servicemembers have developed depression or some form of PTSD and more than 320,000 have developed MTBI upon return from deployment. In response, services have drastically expanded to meet the growing need. Since 2007, the Army has increased behavioral health providers by 67 percent. Services have expanded to include counseling by video conference for those in remote areas, and efforts are being made to standardize care so that active-duty, National Guard and reserve components receive the same quality of care.

While these efforts are worthy of recognition, we must recognize additional factors that serve as barriers to those in need of services. First, the military culture has a long history of stigmatizing mental health care. Seen as a sign of weakness, many servicemembers prefer to suffer in silence rather than undergo the scrutiny of fellow comrades. In all fairness, leaders have taken positions to encourage the use of behavioral health services. Influential leaders such as Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, the assistant deputy chief of staff for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, have received personal treatment for PTSD in the hopes of sending an encouraging message to soldiers. While this exemplifies the support of military leaders, we must remember that the larger issue is cultural in nature, and we all know that cultures are not easily swayed.

The overall goal here is not to discredit the prevention efforts that are currently in place. The military has recognized September as Suicide Awareness Month, and activities have been coordinated at installations across the world to increase awareness. Here in Schweinfurt, local agencies have collaborated to provide support, education and gifts to soldiers and their families throughout the month.

However, the message is useless unless it is heard. We must seek collective resolution through the process of changing individual and cultural characteristics within the military system that are not compatible with combat expectations. This task requires each of us to do our part to spread the message of resiliency, hope and life as we continue to fight the effects of mental health issues on our military communities.

Kelly Waite

Schweinfurt, Germany


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