Remembering our Veterans on this day. Picture taken from the Patriot Post
I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who doesn’t know a veteran. I’ve had the privilege of knowing several. We think we know them because we’ve grown up with them, loved them, been loved by them, been involved with their daily lives, but is that really so?
I’ve noticed that the veterans I’ve spoken with never talk about war itself. They will tell you anecdotes of their time in the service, nights out with their buds, funny things that happened and the people they met wherever they were stationed. But they never talk about battle. I think it must be a very private place for them.
Those of us who have never served our country cannot know what happens to a man or woman caught in a battle and having to fire on other human beings. We cannot know of the struggle of the soul to cope with having to take another human life. We can imagine, but we can never know.
We see the images on TV, hear of the conflict on the radio and the progress of whatever war is currently being fought, but we cannot know the reality of facing our enemy and knowing one of us will die. We cannot know their reality. And our veterans never speak of it.
When they come home we expect them to be as we remember them before the blood, before the heat, before the stress of being in the middle of a battle. But how can they be the same? They have seen what we have not, felt what we cannot, and survived. They have made the ultimate commitment and some do not return. Somehow our soldiers know that we cannot grasp what they have seen, felt, been through and so they keep it to themselves sharing only with other veterans. A lonely place it must be.
We see the images but we cannot feel what they have felt. We only think we can. Their nightmares, post traumatic stress disorders, the way they jump when they aren’t expecting us to be there, give testament that they have experienced horrors which we cannot know. Have you ever seen a veteran woken from a bad dream? It is truly frightening.
This post is not about putting myself in their boots, that is not possible. It is simply my attempt to say thank you for things I cannot possibly imagine. For doing what others have not and not shirking because it wasn’t what you thought it would be like. Our veterans have done the hardest thing there is to do, and some have paid the ultimate price. Others return to us, silent and brooding, wanting desperately to “be home” again.
We cannot know what it feels like to round the corner of a foreign street and come upon children playing games and wonder if they are there to kill us. To have to view children as the enemy must play havoc with their internal compass when it comes to how we view the world and their place in it. We see the images, but they are just images. We aren’t there and we have no emotional involvement in the scene.
We cannot know what it feels like to see our best friend on the battle field shot and killed and have to continue to fight regardless of what we are feeling inside. Is it any wonder some come back damaged? That the silence they draw around themselves is so loud? We cannot know, those of us who have never been there.
Our wills and hearts haven’t been tested or tried. We are innocent of their reality even while viewing the images which flash across our TV screens. There is no cost to us personally. Only those who survive and come back to us know the true cost of war. We are blessedly oblivious even as we see over and over again the images of fighting, wherever that fighting may have taken place. Our world hasn’t changed because of what we’ve seen. It has happened to someone else, not us. But our veterans know it intimately.
What does a man or woman have to see, which causes 18 of our veterans to commit suicide EACH DAY? Since the war on terror began, 108,000 of our brave veterans have committed suicide. What drives them to it? Could it be the deplorable way they are treated when they return home after giving their all? When they return to us they are treated not with the honor they deserve, but as outcasts. The fact that we forget about them and the service they rendered? We have let them down. We have failed them. Their commanders have failed them. Congress has failed them. The United States has failed them. We must make amends. We need to become emotionally involved in the plight of our veterans. We can do so much more than we have.
In the past 9 years of the war on terror, 108,000 veterans have killed themselves. WHY? How could they survive war only to die on home turf? That there are 1,000 every month shows how inadequate our veterans find their lives after their service. Even one suicide is unacceptable. Those that were tasked with helping our veterans cope should be hung. Their despicable carelessness of these true heroes speaks of treachery the likes of which I have no words for. Prison is too good for them.
(CBS) The Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire again Monday, this time in California federal court where it’s facing a national lawsuit by veterans rights groups accusing the agency of not doing enough to stem a looming mental health crisis among veterans. As part of the lawsuit, internal e-mails raise questions as to whether top officials deliberately deceived the American public about the number of veterans attempting and committing suicide. CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyiane a reports.
We are so unconscious of what is happening inside our veterans. Is it any wonder they throw up a wall we cannot penetrate? How does a moral man or woman reconcile the taking of a human life when they are taught from childhood that killing is wrong? Especially in those who have deep religious convictions. The conflict this sets up must be horrendous indeed. Those of us who are not veterans or soldiers cannot possibly know the emotional trauma these souls have gone through.
We are so unaware of our veteran’s plight. We wonder why they don’t open up and confide in us when we have no reference to start from. We love them but cannot understand their needs or their sorrows or anything about their their experiences in war. In our world they suffer most often in silence. No one but another vet could possibly understand where their heads are at. Isolated and alone in a sea of humanity they wander in their own darkness.
Our soldiers and veterans were taught to survive but not taught how to cope with life after combat. The “top brass” has failed them and has failed us. We are given back broken soldiers, sick inside with what they have seen and done and been through, and then turned out in civilian life to flounder around and try to get back what has been lost inside themselves. But like all the rest who have not been a soldier, I can only assume I know what they have suffered, seen, gone through. I cannot truly know.
As we enjoy our parades, picnics, potlucks, friends and family gatherings, take a moment and to be silent, to say a prayer for those who didn’t come back, and for those who did but are forever changed. Thank them with all your heart each and every day for their courage and service to us and the united States of America. Let each one know how grateful we are that they were there, and that they came back.
Not one veteran should ever be homeless. We shame ourselves as a nation that there are homeless veterans out there. How dare we forget them so easily? The measure of a nation is taken and judged by how it treats those who have given everything to their country and kin. How have we repaid them?
The sign of this homeless veteran reads, “Homeless Nam vet. 1968 to 1971. 1st and 8th ALT-CAV 1705 DOOT Gunner.” And I cannot read the rest. How can those on the same sidewalk simply walk on by? Where is our moral compass? We are shamed that this man is or was on the street when he should have had a place of honor at any table he chose to share. This is so wrong. How many more of those who gave us all are out there in this man’s position? Don’t just walk on by, do something for these men and women. They deserve so much, much more from us.
Make every day Memorial Day for those who have given everything live among us. Do not forget what they have sacrificed so that we can live comfortably, secure in our homes and lives. Honor those who have made the ultimate commitment whether they still live or have passed on. We owe them so much more than a space on the sidewalk or a suicide.
Please pardon my feeble attempt to say thank you to our Veterans on this Memorial Day. There is so much more I would like to do.