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Veterans face new challenges returning from war

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – At a ceremony Monday honoring Virginia’s fallen heroes at the Virginia War Memorial, World War II veteran Hike Jamgochian and Iraq War veteran Anthony Banks both proudly wore their Marine Corps uniforms.

The ceremony allowed both men to reflect on the bonds they share and the similarities of war.

“We served a purpose greater than ourselves,” said Banks.

But both also acknowledged the differences in warfare over the past 60 years.

“When we were in it, there was just mortars and gunfire,” said Jamgochian. “Now it’s everything. You don’t know what’s coming at you.”

That’s just one aspect of war today that has drastically increased the number of veterans coming home and filing for disability.

According to a study by the Associated Press, 45 percent of veterans have filed for disability, making this the “most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.”

The study also found that veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average and the most recent veterans are seeking compensation for up to 14 injuries.

According to Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Virginia is also seeing a historic number of veterans filing for disability benefits.

“Service members are coming back with unique injuries that are unique to this war,” said Secretary Terrie Suit. “We didn’t see the use of IED’s in prior engagements.”

The study found other contributing factors are a weak economy, more troops surviving wounds and more awareness of problems such as PTSD.

“It’s different than Vietnam,” argued Suit. “We made terrible mistakes during and after Vietnam and we didn’t embrace our veterans….now we are going to do everything we can to help them.”

Ed Sabo, who served 12 months in Iraq, said he understands the problems facing today’s veterans. Sabo now serves as Secretary for Joint Staff with the Virginia National Guard.

“I think one of the most radical differences is the speed with which we go to war and come back,” he said 

Sabo also said veterans today have a wide range of support, but many are not aware of the help available to them.

“There’s so much more support than there has been in the past,” said Sabo. “It use to be limited to the Veteran’s Administration and now there’s just a huge family of support that helps us.”

There are 1.6 million veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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