Monthly Archives: May 2012

Ghosts of the Battlefield

“In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield” (General Douglas MacArthur). A veteran never forgets the battlefield. Those images haunt them like ghosts, forever present in the back of their minds.

Iraq war veteran Bryan said, “I was having constant flashbacks. The whole time I was awake I was miserable. I couldn’t feel any excitement about life. I would just stay in my room all day and drink and drink and drink, and I didn’t know why.” Many of us today recognize the physical sacrifices our veterans have made but don’t always see the emotional.

Back at home, we protest, cry, write letters, and rejoice in reaction to war and the end of it. We feel safe and guarded, and we praise our veterans for the war that has been won and the victory we’ve all gained from their sacrifice. The war then ends in our history books, but it never ends for our veterans.

It’s true that the media today has allowed us to see for ourselves war in its most brutal form, but no amount of technology will allow us at home to live war. Bryan was extremely happy all growing up. He said, “Everybody knew me as just the happiest dude, but [in war] there was a time when there was just no laughing.” Bryan said that to cope with all the death and sadness around him he had to go emotionally numb.

Bryan was diagnosed with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), a disorder that many veterans acquire when they return home. After running through the jungles of Vietnam for a year or more, dodging bombs and bullets, ‘Welcome Home’ should have been the best words a Vietnam soldier could’ve heard. However, being halfway around the world did nothing to fade their memories.

Gene Duwe, after interviewing seventeen Vietnam war veterans, said, “Any time a helicopter flutters overhead, the smell of diesel fuel wafts in the air or the notes of Taps are played, veterans flashback to the jungles of Vietnam.” We can never know the thoughts and memories of our beloved veterans, but we can honor them, support them, and help them find hope.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD may avoid people and isolate themselves while constantly reliving the horrors of the war in their minds. They’ll have nightmares, flashbacks, and possibly hallucinations. Though it may not show physically, they’ve been hurt and wounded from the war. Emotional wounds inflict more of our veterans than physical wounds. Physical wounds we can treat whereas the emotional pains are much harder to cure.

There are many organizations that are there to help our veterans – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Make the Connection is one such program that helps veterans to know that they are not alone in what they are feeling and that there is help. Rebecca, Bryan’s spouse, said, “There is so much more help and understanding than you even realize.”

Even greater an influence than these wonderful organizations, are the veterans’ close family and friends. Almost everyone knows someone who has served during a time of war – a father, grandfather, brother, sister, friend. We may not understand what they’re going through, but because we are not as emotionally damaged as them, we have the opportunity to reach out and help them find hope.

Bryan said, “I forgot that there was good in the world, and every time I saw Rebecca, it brought it back.” There is goodness, there is happiness, there is hope here at home for all of our veterans. It is our responsibility as part of their lives to help them see this.

Our veterans have given their time and their service, and they will continue to give. More than honor and support, we must love them. We are their link back to life before war, and we are their vision forward to how good life can be after. They will never forget their moments on the battlefield so let us always remember our veterans.

In Honor of Our Military

The third Saturday of May is nationally recognized as Armed Forces Day, a day on which we celebrate the service of the men and women in our military in protecting our country at home and abroad.

On August 31, 1949, President Harry S. Truman created the proclamation to establish a day to honor all those who served in the military. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.

In President Truman’s proclamation given May 20, 1950 he said:

“Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”

Since 1950 Armed Forces Day has been a yearly event, celebrated throughout the Nation with parades, programs, speeches, military air shows and other means to celebrate and honor retired and active military men and women. Many cemeteries hold memorials to honor those who gave their lives for their country.

This year as we honor our Nation’s military it is not only a grateful tribute, but a reminder of who is fighting to keep our homeland safe.  A visit to a VA Hospital brought the reality of the sacrifice given by our young men and women serving.  Sitting in a waiting room with several retired Vietnam War era veterans, I noticed that their banter about their war experience stopped abruptly as a young 22-year-old soldier was wheeled in by his wife.  A car bomb in Afghanistan left him a paraplegic.  These men, who had also witnessed the horrors of war and survived, were overcome to tears by this young man’s sacrifice.

Americans everywhere want to help those who fight to keep us safe to live a life of peace and freedom.  Hundreds of organizations, companies, schools and individuals do service to recognize our troops throughout the year.  Everywhere you go you can see or read about events raising funds for military families.

So, wherever you are on May 19 take a moment and reflect on the freedoms you enjoy and who is fighting to protect them.  We are ever grateful for our military men and women.

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