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Thursday, June 30, 2011

coming back from Mars

Veering off topic a little today. This is about a subject near and dear to my heart: veterans. I read an article today on medical news today about veteran suicide.

We are in 2-3 wars, even more, depending on how you view it. One is "winding down" in Iraq, although if you believe that we will ever be completely out of there, I have some swampland in Florida for sale. A close relative is on his way there now, deployed for one year for the second time. So people are still being deployed to Iraq. Afghanistan: no end in sight. Why we are still there boggles my mind. We are sacrificing US soldiers lives in a place that has not changed and won't change when we leave. We are involved in Libya, air forces being used.

These wars are not "conventional" wars, not the old fashioned world war II type wars. It is difficult to determine who is your enemy or who is your friend. Deployed up to 4 times in the space of several years, you are asked to sacrifice over and over again, along with your family. Here's the thing: you are among a relatively small group of people who volunteered to defend this country. You are "protecting" us from terrorism. There is no draft, no one else is being asked to sacrifice for the cause. Most people don't give you much thought, your death is several pages back in the newspaper.

Coming back from war is like coming back from Mars. You were stripped down to the basics of survival: gun and assorted war paraphenailia, clothes, family pictures, cot if you're lucky, tent. All prentensions of normal life have fallen by the wayside as you depend on your fellow soldiers and develop the kind of bonds with them that you will never develop with anyone again. Then you watch them die. You accept what may be your own inevitable death.

You come back, expected to rejoin your old life, but you have changed, disoriented by a world that has gone on without you. There is really no one to talk to about your experiences even if you wanted because no one really wants to hear it and soldiers don't talk about emotions with each other. Soldiers don't go to counselors, they are supposed to be strong. If you are lucky, you somehow put it in a box, move on. If you don't, it haunts you. You become one of 18 veterans who commit suicide daily in this country, about 6,000 a year.

No one seems to care. We have sanitized these wars. No one sees the dead bodies or missing limbs. We see no bodies coming back. That is carefully hidden. We are okay with you and the others protecting our precious freedom, with little personal sacrifice on our part.

8 comments:

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Some of us are appalled and disturbed and infuriated by these “wars” and yet even tens of millions of demonstrators cannot keep the war machine still. We MUST change our priorities and soon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. It has changed my perspective on veterans a lot.

Anonymous said...

I work on an inpatient Psych floor, and of our rather large capacity I can safely say at least 1/3 are veterans with some form of PTSD usually with some sort of substance abuse tagged along from months/years of trying to be a strong soldier and hide the pain.

NightWriter said...

After Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina and then re-upping again ~ our friend killed himself. He had acted like he was having "good" days, weeks and months.

You HAVE to be vigilant as friends and family and keep checking in to make sure our service members are okay and are getting the help they need. There has to be a way to take the shame out of getting therapy, counseling and group support. We should encourage even the strongest soldier to be okay with getting help for his heart and soul.

Victor said...

Well, I do not really imagine this is likely to work.
steel building

Anonymous said...

Oil.

Westkntl said...

Thanks for this article. It has changed my perspective on veterans a lot.

Rudonfhle said...

After Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina and then re-upping again ~ our friend killed himself. He had acted like he was having "good" days, weeks and months. You HAVE to be vigilant as friends and family and keep checking in to make sure our service members are okay and are getting the help they need. There has to be a way to take the shame out of getting therapy, counseling and group support. We should encourage even the strongest soldier to be okay with getting help for his heart and soul.