Many times the media does a human interest story on a veteran. Often the writer feels the best way to generate interest is to explore a problem the veteran is facing. Sometimes the story lines are promoted by non-profits and government agencies whose income is based on increased publicity and funding for the highlighted problem. Over the past 20 years this has resulted in numerous media accounts of veterans with substance abuse problems, especially alcohol. The accumulated value of these “news” stories has attached a negative stigma to veterans almost akin to turn of the century publicity regarding “firewater” and Native American Indians with the effect of “making them go crazy”.
The truth is that while in the military men and women responsibly purchase alcohol at on-base stores, on-base service clubs, or at off-base establishments.
Once discharged, the majority of veterans who choose to drink alcoholic beverages continue to do so responsibly. Every day of the year generations of veterans meet in the VFW, American Legion, and many other service clubs across America. In these clubs they swap stories, conduct fundraising activities, and enjoy a safe family and veteran- friendly haven. Some veterans choose to drink alcoholic beverages while many others consume non-alcoholic products.
In spite of the image portrayed by the media over the past 20 years, alcohol is no more of an issue with veterans than it is with the general population. This misrepresentation in the media has now reached the point where some veterans are being asked, “is it OK to buy you a drink or do you have an alcohol problem?” Many veterans resent the portrayal of predisposition to abuse problems.
Actually, the biggest health issue facing veterans today is the same one that plagues the general population; food addiction with poor diet and poor portion control. Food and diet problems lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and a myriad of tangent health problems. Food related diseases consume a large portion of the Veterans Administration’s Health Services budget.
Most veterans who consume alcohol have already learned to drink in moderation and use a designated driver who does not drink at all. Yet many veterans and the general public have not learned to eat in moderation utilizing portion control and diet to prevent weight gain and obesity associated diseases.
Veterans and the general public can enjoy many things in moderation by applying portion control, responsibility, and the designated driver concept to everyday life.
Veterans have an advantage for overcoming their problems. The inner self of any veteran is discipline. Veterans are better conditioned than the general public, due to their military service, to practice portion control and diet once they are properly taught to do so. Fortunately for veterans, the Veterans Administration has established weight loss and portion control training programs at their facilities. This will have a significant impact not only on the life span and quality of life for veterans, but on the Veterans Administration’s Health Services budget as well.
The veterans’ health issue focus has begun to move from alcohol addiction to obesity issues. As this new emphasis begins to receive extensive coverage in the media, we hope that veterans are not once again painted collectively in a negative manner by government agencies and non-profits seeking to promote increased visibility to gain funding for their agency.
Carolyn Darrow, RN
Wounded Nature – Working Veterans
Photo credit: Kevin Gregory