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“We have the world’s greatest Constitution and individual liberties, but they would not exist without the sacrifice in blood, sweat, tears and lives of the United States Army over the last 236 years,” Mr. Carter said. “Our warriors have paid the price in full to win and preserve our freedoms for over two centuries, and as we celebrate the anniversary of their founding, we also celebrate the continued protection of our nation and freedoms.”

Mr. Carter said in addition to recognizing the soldiers of the Army, the day should also be a celebration of their families, who sacrifice so much in supporting the service of their family member.

“Throughout our history, from Valley Forge to Afghanistan and Iraq, the triumph of our Army on the field of battle has been matched by the sacrifices of their spouses, children, and parents who stand by while their loved one defends the rest of us. To the soldiers of our Army past and present and their families, the people of the United States gratefully wish you all a very Happy 236th Birthday.”

• The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently heard testimony concerning the apparent disconnect between Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health programs and disability compensation in helping veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war. Witnesses were called to bring forth a diversity of suggestions to better assist veterans seeking mental health treatment, while examining the coordination of that treatment between the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) towards a goal of recovery and wellness.

“I felt ashamed of needing help, especially when there were others more deserving. Plus, why would I get help when my VA checks went straight into the bank. At the VA, I was another number in a revolving door,” stated Daniel Hanson, a Marine Corps veteran, before the committee. “At the program I checked myself into, Minnesota Team Challenge, I was a person, and they wanted to see me get better.”

Mr. Hanson served in Iraq where his unit lost 35 Marines. When he returned home, he began to experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, heightened by the suicide of close friends and his brother, also a Marine. Mr. Hanson turned to the VA for help, but found no incentive in receiving outpatient treatment. He checked himself into a full-time private, inpatient facility in Minnesota, where he spent 15 months. Today, he is married, has children, and works as an advocate for fellow veterans suffering from mental trauma.

The committee is currently exploring the concept of a holistic approach to mental health treatment at the VA, incorporating incentives, family support counseling, and education and employment benefits customized to each veteran’s needs.

“On one hand, we have a medical system that boasts of evidence-based therapies, improved access and high quality of care. On the other, we have data from VA indicating that veterans with mental illness only get progressively worse. There is something very wrong with this situation,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “We need to move beyond numbers that simply tell us how many veterans use the system and get at the fundamental question of whether they are on a road to leading full, productive lives. It is our duty at this committee to ask these tough questions and find solutions.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email