Dear Home Base Nation,
Twenty years ago, on March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Major combat operations would end less than two months later, but the brutal war in Iraq waged on for over eight more years.
Although combat operations in Iraq ended on December 15, 2011, more than a decade later we still have more than 2,500 U.S. Service Members serving at great risk in Iraq – and another 1,000 in Syria.
As we know, the cost of freedom is high and it is paid by those wearing the uniform of our Nation, and the Families they leave behind. Three million men and women served in Iraq and Afghanistan. 7,057 were killed in action and 53,242 were wounded by the enemy. Roughly 1.8 million Veterans who served after September 11, 2001 now have a service-connected disability and more than 30,000 of these post-9/11 Veterans have died by suicide.
Home Base was created to help fill the gap in care left by our government and leverage the incredible resources of the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital faculty to reimagine what is possible in the treatment of these invisible wounds of war. With the support of a grateful Nation and our incredible partners, we have successfully developed innovative, new life-saving clinical programs and cared for more than 30,000 Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families from all 50 states – all at no cost.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have concluded with our chaotic evacuation from Kabul in 2021, but the U.S. Military continues to have hundreds of thousands of troops forward deployed across the globe, and we know the casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan will continue for many years to come. We continue to lose more than 20 Veterans to suicide each day, and potentially an additional 20 Veterans to self-harm. Most Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, including myself, have lost many friends and fellow Warriors to suicide. The stark reality of the continued threat to our Veterans hit home for me six months ago when a very close friend I served alongside in Iraq lost his battle with his invisible wounds of war.
The unfortunate truth we face is that the protracted nature of these injuries will present our Veterans and their Families with significant challenges for the foreseeable future, and the mission at Home Base will continue. There is an increasingly flawed perception that the clinical care requirements for our Warriors ended with the cessation of combat operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. However, the current demand for mental health and brain injury care has never been higher than it is today and, based on published reports from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this need will continue for decades to come.
According to the VA’s 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, more than 125,000 Veterans from all combat eras have died by suicide in the U.S. since 2001, including over 65,000 who have died by suicide since 2010, more than the total number of combat deaths during the Vietnam War and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The 30,000 Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans from post-9/11 conflicts who died by suicide, is four times more than those lost in battle. Suicide was the second-leading cause of death among Veterans under the age of 45 – this is especially frightening, as the median age of post-9/11 Veterans is near 40 years old.
The Home Base mission to heal the invisible wounds of war for our warriors and their families is more critical now than ever before. Since our inception 14 years ago, we continue to see the lifesaving results of our programs. Through the efforts of our team and the support of a grateful Nation, Home Base is recognized as one of the premier clinical programs in the U.S. and has saved thousands of lives, but we know many more need our help. That is why our motto continues to be, “Their mission is complete. Ours has just begun.”
If you or a loved one needs support, connect with us at homebase.org/getcare.
Retired Brigadier General, U.S. Army | Executive Director, Home Base
Home Base is a national nonprofit dedicated to healing the invisible wounds of war for Veterans of all eras, Service Members, Military Families and Families of the Fallen through world-class, direct clinical care, wellness, education and research – all at no cost to them – regardless of era of service, discharge status or geographical location. The program was founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Red Sox. Learn more at www.homebase.org.