The words chilled my soul. Two elderly gentlemen were telling their war stories, going over the horrors of their time in combat. Winding down, one of the veterans started his harangue against men and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “Pansies”, he said. “Hell, we just took another hit of Black Jack and made it through the day.” The words chilled my soul.
These men served us all by their time in the military. We owe them respect and deep appreciation. If I were to take a leap of understanding, I would venture that their ‘hit’ of Black Jack was a long-standing cover-up with alcohol…a remedy of choice and cultural acceptance for the horrors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is real. It happens. It corrodes the mind, the responses, ability to cope. PTSD eats away at the self, at courage, at making it through the day-to-day.
Think about a car accident, divorce, the death of a loved one, hospitalizations of self or family, rejection. Think about a child run amuck with drugs, alcohol or even with attitude and behavior. The traumatic event passes, but the effects linger…sleepless nights, appetite changes, tears from nowhere, anger eruptions. Perhaps we push family and friends to the background because it is just too much to deal. In truth, unless we heal we probably cannot deal with love and justice.
Now try to visit war. Kill or be killed. Overwhelming danger that is unrelenting. Adapting to the needs and rules of warfare while trying to balance with one’s own rules of conduct–pain, mutilation, kill or be killed. Unless we are, or have been part of the military at war, how can we come close to understanding what war does to the spirit of a woman or a man.
The older vets do deserve our thanks, but their service does not excuse their attitude towards younger service personnel who need support as they deal with PTSD. Alcohol may have dulled the pain but alcoholics create new pain for family and friends. Alcohol did not work towards curing PTSD whether from war or from the events of our lives.
I believe in compassion, understanding, huge doses of reality acceptance. I believe that it is impossible for me to walk the walk of war. I believe it is my obligation to honor those who do that walk in my place.