Obama visits Fort Bliss
President Barack Obama discusses mental health services for troops
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
President Barack Obama flew into El Paso on Air Force One and landed at Biggs Army Airfield on Aug. 31. He addressed a crowd of about 5,000 soldiers and civilians at the Fort Bliss Main Hangar.
Obama’s arrival and speech were made the same day he signed a new executive order that focuses on providing better mental health-care resources to veterans.
“We’re going increase the number of folks manning those crisis hotlines so help is there when you need it most,” Obama said in his speech. “We’re going to add even more counselors and mental health providers. We’re launching a new awareness campaign, starting tomorrow, and I’m directing a new task force to find out what works best so we’re doing everything we can to help those in need and save lives. And I know that you’ll join me in saying to everyone who's ever worn the uniform: If you’re hurting, it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help; it’s a sign of strength.
Major General Dana Pittard agreed with Obama’s stance on supporting soldiers suffering with PTSD.
“Well ideally we encourage our soldiers,” he said. “If you go to all of our gates there are signs up that says ‘seeking help is seeking strength’ and we mean that. It’s just like calling for fire in combat. If your position is overrun by the enemy, you call for fire support, air support. It’s the same thing here, that if you need help, seek help.”
Phillip Gonzales, sophomore business administration major doesn’t feel this executive order was a campaign ploy, but does believe there could be other ways to deal with mental health issues in soldiers returning from combat.
“It’s good that someone is taking care of this issue that affects so many men and women who come back just not in the same mindset,” he said. “But instead I think we should work towards stopping involvement in foreign affairs, I think that would rid the issue all together.”
Other topics Obama focused on were education and employment opportunities for soldiers returning from war.
“Every single one of you has defended the American Dream for the rest of us, and every single one of you deserves a chance to live the American Dream yourselves,” Obama said. “And that includes jobs worthy of your incredible talents.”
Obama also mentioned a track-down of colleges and universities who take advantage of the GI Bill and steal money from soldiers.
“By the way, we’re cracking down on those schools that have been trying to take your money and then rip you off by not giving you the education that you paid for. That needs to stop. We’re going to bring an end to that,” he said.
Obama’s visit was also timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of his announcement to end combat operations in Iraq.
“And so, two years ago, I was able to come here to Bliss and mark the end of our combat mission,” he said. “And that night I told the American people that all our troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the following year. At the time, I know some folks didn’t believe me. They were skeptical. Some thought the end of combat was just word games and semantics, but I meant what I said.”
Obama promised to push Congress to pass Veteran Jobs Corps and to extend tax cuts to businesses that hire veterans.
“When we stand together and when we work together, when we take care of each other, we remind ourselves there's nothing we can't do,” he said near the end of his speech. “America's greatest days are yet to come, and that we remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.”
Jasmine Aguilera and Kristopher Rivera may be reached at email@example.com.