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U.S. government and the military that address these factors can go a long way in improving health, mental health, and ultimately economic outcomes among Latino veterans. For example, environmental hazards—chemical toxins, dirty bombs, suicide bombers, and car bombs—associated with military duty overseas should be more carefully assessed before deployment so that soldiers can be protected in advance and potential hazards can be anticipated and hopefully avoided. The U.S. military should provide proper gear, supplies, and armor to protect soldiers in advance of deployment. Doing so would enable soldiers to avoid injuries that could hold serious consequences for their health and functioning, as well as their ability to pursue economic opportunities. For those veterans who have already survived injuries that carry long-term debilitating consequences, the Veterans Administration must outreach to these veterans specifically in the areas of medical and occupational rehabilitation, as well as opportunities related to education. Structural factors, in particular racism and discrimination that occur within the context of military service, need to be addressed by the U.S. government . As such, the military’s adherence to antidiscrimination laws and civil rights laws should be strictly enforced with clear consequences and sanctions for noncompliance. Long-term negative effects of racism and discrimination on health as well as functioning is clear. Racism and discrimination diminish health as well as one’s ability to amass social and economic resources that protect and bolster health. Similarly, efforts to recruit Latinos into the military should be matched by an equal amount of effort on the part of the federal government to recruit Latinos into college and other educational opportunities. As such, affirmative action laws should be upheld and civil rights and antidiscrimination laws in education and employment enforced. Doing so will make the choice to serve in the military a real choice rather than a choice made because of the absence of other viable educational and economic opportunities. Finally, society must learn to separate the soldier from the politics and the war. For many young Latinos, military service is perceived as the only pathway out of poverty and economic disparity. The promises of educational and occupational benefits upon discharge are factors that pull young Latinos into the military (Gifford 2005), as are family traditions of military service and the recognition and pride associated with serving one’s country. Therefore, it is imperative that we as a society recognize the contribution and sacrifice of these young people, regardless of our feeling about the war. There is certainly ample evidence of the horrific toll that society’s lack of respect, support, and recognition has on the physical and mental health of veterans. Poor Health among Latino Vietnam Veterans 135 Conclusion Latinos clearly have accepted the call to arms. They have a long and impressive history of military service that is laudable, and they have paid the price for military service. This has been a high price: disproportionately high levels of PTSD, mental health issues, and difficulty functioning. Our most recent veterans have also experienced high levels of combat-related injuries that have rendered them blind and disabled. And a disproportionate number of Latinos have paid the ultimate price. For this sacrifice, it is incumbent that the U.S. government initiate outreach services and programs that respond to the specific physical and mental health issues Latino veterans experience, thereby improving the health and well-being of this population. Note The VIP research for this study was supported by a grant from the Veterans Administration, Health Research and Development Division, grant ECV97–028. We would like to thank all of the veterans that participated in the VIP focus groups for their dedication to this project and for sharing their experience and insights. We would also like to offer our sincere thanks and appreciation to all of the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. They have our deepest admiration and respect. References Barone, M. 2003. Making new amigos. U.S. News & World Report 134 (2): 26. Beckham, J. C., S. D. Moore, M. Feldman, E. Hertzberg, A. C. Kirby, and J. A. Fairbank. 1998. Health status, somatization, and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnam combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 155 (11): 1565–1569. Boscarino, J. A., and J. Chang. 1999a. Electrocardiogram abnormalities among men with stress-related psychiatric disorders: Implications for coronary heart disease and clinical research. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 21 (3): 227–234...


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