"We are doing tremendous damage"

Vietnam vets Webb and Hagel urge more time between deployments.

By Julia Dahl

Published July 9, 2007 9:18PM (EDT)

Two of the Senate's Vietnam veterans, Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., issued grave warnings about the state of U.S. military forces during the first hours of renewed debate on funding the war Monday. After more than four years of fighting in Iraq, the Senators said that multiple tours, rushed training, and too little time at home have resulted in "burnout" and "multiple mental health issues" for troops. All this, Webb said on the Senate floor, prompted him to introduce an amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill that would mandate a certain amount of "well-time" (time at home) before a soldier can be redeployed to combat.

"If we're serious about supporting our troops," said Webb, "this is the place to start."

Hagel agreed. "We are doing tremendous damage to our Army, Marine Corps, and our National Guard... We are eroding our military power," he said.

As Salon's Mark Benjamin reported in December, a late-2006 Army study suggested that soldiers serving more than one tour of duty "are 50 percent more likely to suffer from acute stress disorder, a possible precursor to [post-traumatic stress disorder]." Another risk factor, Benjamin noted, was that "As the U.S. mission in Iraq has morphed from overthrowing Saddam into a vague cross between nation building and refereeing a civil war, returning soldiers...express a growing disenchantment with that mission. Questioning the mission is a psychological liability on the battlefield -- and such disillusionment means that American soldiers in Iraq are at greater risk of developing PTSD."

Julia Dahl

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