Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day 2013. A day for many to have off work and cook out with friends and family. Maybe even catch a movie or a baseball game or even watch some golf. However, more than all of this, it is a day that we need to reflect on the sacrifices of those who went to war or into battle as members of our armed forces. By sacrifices, we need to remember those who have died, but we also must remember those who continue to fight the war even after they return home.
Take, for example, the soldier who has, like so many of our soldiers, endured multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan with little time off between them. Yes, they were trained for combat; however, the human mind and body can only take so much stress before it has negative effects. A friend of mine told me about his commanding officer who had endured multiple deployments. He was a good man who cared deeply about his troops. They loved him for it. He would hang out with them when they would go out on the town when in Germany. He made certain they made it safely back to base. This man, when he found out he was to be deployed once again to Afghanistan, committed suicide rather than face the horrors of war again. I believe it would have been his fourth deployment. It is shameful for our country to send these men and women into harm’s way time and time again without some way for them to decompress and get the help they need to deal with the psychological scars of war.
There are thousands of veterans who have returned to their homes and jobs, but within themselves, part of them is still at war. They continue to fight the battles in their heads as they cannot get it out of their minds. It haunts them and causes many of them to take their own lives to escape the pain. These veterans suffer from what was once known as shell shock, but is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is the same thing regardless of the more politically correct moniker. It is hard to treat as many do not seek the assistance they need because they fear it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. Instead, they suffer through unknown rages or even recurring images of war that haunt them as they attempt to return to normal.
Another sad aspect of this is that, since their wounds are not in the open, many believe they have no injuries. We need to remember that although the body is intact, the mind may not be. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough professionals in the military to help these young men and women with the war raging in their minds. If someone sees a veteran with limbs lost, they want to help. Yet, those who have not lost a limb still have lost part of themselves and need our help desperately. The nightmares do not end for them. Sometimes the slightest sound or scent can trigger an episode of anxiety or panic for them. We have heard past news headlines where this has led to people being killed. While that does occur, many more veterans suffering from PTSD take their own life rather than the lives of others.
These young men and women deserve so much more than to suffer. They deserve our support. They need to be put in contact with professionals who can help them. They need to know that it is okay to ask for help. It is hard for someone who has been trained to fight and keep their pain silent to open up and tell their story, but it has happen for healing to begin. Their loved ones go through it with them, yet may not even realize what they are truly going through in their minds. We, as Americans, need to demand that these veterans get the help they need. We need to urge our elected officials to provide funding for adequate mental health services for our veterans. While many veterans may not currently show their pain, it is bound to surface sometime in their lives. They need help.
So, as you sit down to enjoy your hamburger or hot dog or the game, take a moment and also write to your elected officials and demand better for our veterans. Not just those with visible wounds and scars, but those whose scars are deeper.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s