“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.” Konstantin Josef Jireček, Czech historian, politician, and diplomat, and a Slav scholar.
Veteran’s Day 2015, another year survived. My birthday falls on the 11th, just not this month. But this is the birthday of what defines me and so many of my brothers in arms.
My march towards being a veteran started over 35 years ago. A poor dirt farmer’s son, who was himself a Korean War Veteran who suffered from severe PTS(D). They call it a disorder but Post Traumatic is nature’s way of helping us survive, and once it takes effect I’m not sure it is ever undone, the stress part never stops coming.
Still a kid at 18 with few or no prospects in the world. I was going to do a hitch in the Army and save money for school. Well, I never saved much money, I didn’t complete college, but I sure got an education. This is what my degree looks like from the school of hard knocks;
Cold war studies and terrorism, organizational structure and operations, psychology, pharmacology, weapons of the world and their operations, dive operations, economics, intelligence analysis, chemistry, cold weather operations, German linguistics, Morse code and high frequency radio operations, airfield operations for both fixed and rotor wing aircraft, psychological and civil affairs operations, guerilla warfare, demolitions…..and the list could go on for some time, in fact if I listed all the areas in which I had training and hands on experience it would well exceed the length of the column. I learned that my integrity was the most important thing in the world. BUT! It isn’t all about me….it is about all of US’s Veterans. Some have much higher educations than I have, others with less, all Veteran’s none the less. From the finance clerk to the cannon cocker, from the mess hall cook to the Green Beret and Rangers, they are all my brothers.
Veteran’s Day, when we honor and appreciate our Veterans from our many wars, the latest of which is the 14 years of Orwellian Warfare we are now experiencing. If you don’t know what Orwellian Warfare is go read George Orwell’s “1984”. Learn about the boogie man, the constant meaningless news we are now bombarded with, and the political correctness that is now jammed down our throats that so many veterans recognize for what it is….our march to a more maddening, communist, fascist, socialist, and newest hybrid oligarchy in the world. It makes me wonder what so many brothers died for, but the dead are a theme for Memorial Day, even though most folks can’t tell you the difference between the two “holidays”. I don’t think either of those days should be holidays, neither is a thrill for me. Maybe if everything retail had to close on those days I might think differently.
Warfare changes men, some for the better, and some for the worse. Veterans have gone places too dangerous for most of you to go. He learned how to kill at 18. He saw things you only see in your nightmares, many experienced craziness on a level you cannot imagine. Yet when he comes home and hangs up his uniform and folks pat him on the back and give him a welcome home, few recognize that the Veteran, especially those who served in combat, still aren’t home, and may never get back there, because the person who left that day, however many years ago, didn’t show back up on the door step.
PTS is one of those invisible wounds, the guys with the visible wounds can have it too. Many civilians get it from car crashes, living in the ghettos and engaging in gang banger and or criminal activities. Police, firemen, nurses, ER doctors, and others come by it honestly, sometimes leaving them as broken individuals in their personal lives. Rape victims, battered wives, and abused children can get there too. Soldiers come by it in combat. PTS causes the amygdala to enlarge and the brain re-wires itself so that there is an automatic response in a crisis or perceived crisis situation. Now I am making this simplistic but what happens is that the brain receives the sensory inputs, mostly visual, auditory, or feeling. If the stimuli are similar to previous bad experiences, the brain circumvents the higher cerebral function and goes from sensory input to the amygdala, which controls fight or flight instinct, and the inputs go straight to the lizard brain which prepares us for battle or flight in a bid for survival.
Many of our veterans don’t know how to seek help for their condition. They don’t understand why they aren’t the same as before. It turns into a bad situation for many when alcoholism, drug abuse, and for some, suicide takes over. I suffered from PTS after a few trips to Iraq. I came close to not completing my military career. I fell off a cliff, proverbially, and went into a solid and deep depression for quite some time. I was really lucky to make it to retirement because the military still had a problem with soldiers who had PTSD. The common diagnosis is borderline personality disorder, or any other disorder that a soldier can be discharged for, Just Because it’s convenient and easier! PTSD manifests itself in a number of ways, many cope, and others cannot. I was lucky and had a friend who was a Vietnam Veteran who recognized what was up with me after I retired from the military.
To date, around twenty two thousand plus soldiers have been discharged under the guise that they were somehow mentally defective. I would suspect that the bulk of the discharges were after those soldiers had seen combat. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, twenty two or so veterans will commit suicide. Not like they were waiting to see the VA or anything. Lord knows how many were living on the streets with their demons and nightmares. Nightmares so vivid and real that a man can break his teeth from gritting them so hard during those nightmares. Unfortunately, many people find it lucrative to appear to live on the streets posing as veterans begging for money. I don’t like posers. What I like less is the dung heap of bureaucracy that keeps the VA from functioning effectively and the politicians that downplay just how bad the situation is for our injured Veterans in these United States.
I do everything I can to help brothers in need, I get it. But for the politicians who benefit from war, especially those who have never been there, to downplay the needs of severely damaged Veterans is, unto itself, a travesty. Because we know what integrity is for most politicians, it’s a stumbling block to their agenda and goals of staying in office and accepting their next bribe. Our politicians show their appreciation by not giving soldiers a cost of living increase, by not funding the VA, but instead appropriate money to bring our enemies inside our own gates.
Veterans don’t want to be coddled, they want to talk about their experiences, with other men who understand those experiences. I have many friends among the walking wounded who came home. I have lost brothers to the travesty of war after the fact.
All is not lost as long as family remains supportive. There is help through the Veteran’s Centers, which I spent nine long years with figuring out who I was and what had happened to me. There are Organizations who do help and do care by providing support with Service Dogs (now there’s a thoughtful use for a pound puppy), with a warm meal and a helping hand. So do yourself and a veteran a favor this Veteran’s day should you know a veteran in need, help them help themselves. Put them in touch with a service organization such as the Disabled American Veteran (DAV), Order of the Purple Heart, or the Veterans’ of Foreign Wars. Know where to turn to help them help themselves, most importantly, appreciate their sacrifice. Your freedom depended on it…and will in the future. God Bless America, God Bless our Veterans…..and God preserve us all in these trying times.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -John Fitzgerald Kennedy