Earlier today, the last US troops pulled out of Iraq and are headed back to American soil. Thank God. To all of our troops--those who served in past wars and years; those currently active; to those wounded and/or maimed, and to those who gave their lives in service to our great land--I thank you for your service, and I thank your families for their sacrifice.

We are a great country, and I write to simply give honor to those who serve in order to keep us that way. I salute you--the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy (including the Navy Seals), and those who serve in the Reserves and National Guard.

By most accounts, the Iraq war was one that should never have begun; all efforts should have been focused on Afghanistan, not Iraq. It's my personal belief that President Bush initiated that war solely to avenge his father after Saddam Hussein threatened to kill the senior President Bush ("Bush 41"); it had nothing to do with the September 11th attack.

But in the Iraq war, we lost more than 4,400 American troops, and over 30,000 of our troops were wounded, some with permanent or disfiguring injuries. We've spent over one trillion dollars, and more than 100,000 Iraqi people were killed in war-related violence.

To the Veteran's Affairs Department, the Military Officer's Association of America (MOAA), the 'Joining Forces' effort at the White House (with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden) and other supportive agencies, thank you, too, for all you do. But we all must remember that there's still much to be done. Our troops need remodeled, state-of-the-art medical facilities and VA Hospitals. More attention needs to be given to psychological matters, and therapy. Also...jobs. Our returning troops need jobs. They also need our support.

As our troops return, remember that we often see the physical wounds, but the psychological wounds must not be overlooked or forgotten. Most troops enter the military as very young souls. Faced with possible death or injury, or seeing comrades wounded or killed can't help but have some effect on the psyche of these young souls. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), depression, anxiety and other mental maladies are possible. Suicide rates are painfully high. To the troops I say if you need help, ask for it.

For those returning home, may you enjoy the time with your family and friends. Take time to readjust to, and enjoy, everything American, and may your neighbors and loved ones welcome you home with open arms.

One of the saddest stories I heard last year was when a now-retired Navy officer told me that, one time, after a near-year's deployment at sea, his then-wife did not come to greet him when the ship returned to American shores. No balloons, no hugs, no smiles, no loving gaze, no sweet perfume. Waiting for her to appear, he said that he was the last to disembark, and she was not there. After everyone else had left, he took a cab home...alone...and it was most painful to him. Hearing his story made me cry and I hurt for him even now.

Here's hoping that any service member who returns today, this week, or in the future will have someone there to greet them, with the best balloons and more importantly, the warmest hugs, smiles, and kisses for their loved one.

To all of our returning troops, again...welcome home. To them, to our veterans, and to all still on the battle field in Afghanistan or serving abroad in other lands while in service to this great land, thank you for your service; and may you have a wonderful and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and all best wishes for the new year.

If you need a little levity--a little humor--enjoy the just released eBook of Medical Bloopers! Amusing & Amazing Stories of Health Care Workers (with a foreword by Dr. Neil Shulman, author of Doc Hollywood, complete with comic illustrations and definitions).

To all...Be Healthy, Be Blessed... and on a more serious note, make sure you are Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell, a book about health, sex and happiness, with a foreword by Pauletta Washington, musician and wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington, and endorsed by psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere and others. [Get it now. It makes a great stocking stuffer, and a 'new year, new you' health guide for women--all women--but especially Black women whose health statistics are most concerning compared to other demographics. 

Copyright © 2011 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include a hyperlink to this--my original post on Psychology Today, with author credit. Feel free to post the link to this, and any of my PT posts, to your social network pages.

About the Author

Melody T. McCloud M.D.

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers.

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