Nearly two years ago, I began seriously researching Post Traumatic Stress. Since then, I have wanted to write about my findings and my thoughts on my findings. I have, but there was so much more to say, so many different facets to this complex issue. What follows are the results of my research, literally hundreds of hours of conversations and an even greater amount of time reading everything I could find.
I’ve talked with scores of people and there are some conclusions I’ve drawn. Saying ‘interim conclusions’ is actually more accurate because there is always something more to learn, hear, read and think about.
When considering all of the issues facing our military and veterans today, nothing is more deserving of careful consideration, thoughtful dialogue and open conversation than Post Traumatic Stress. Some may disagree with my opinions, but they are just that – opinions. I’ve done my best to explain how I’ve come to these understandings, but they are by no means intended as definitive answers.
I am not a psychologist, social worker or trained clinician, nor do I pretend to be. Just as I am not nor have I ever been a member of the military. I write as a civilian. A civilian who has been fortunate to have access to a world to which I’ve not paid the admission price, a civilian who respects the profession and is trying to help other civilians better understand those members of our society who have put it all on the line for the freedoms and rights we too often take for granted.
Time and again, I will make statements which I have come to believe are Truths. Such as, Post Traumatic Stress is a physical malady, not a mental illness. Another is that unless or until soldier and veteran suicide is understood to be caused by the very drugs given to our warriors more than by their experiences, the death toll will continue to rise.
One of the truths I’ve found and am most hesitant to put in writing is that combat veterans are a class unto themselves, by nearly every measure superior to civilians. In our class-less and caste-less society, this is a nearly unthinkable thing to say. We are founded on the principal that “All men are created equal”. I do not argue that and in fact agree with it wholeheartedly. But, that sentence needs to be followed with another, “though created equal, by an individual’s actions, choices and struggles, some rise above all the rest”.
In our myths and legends, we hold this to be true. The warrior who stands in the gap in defense of us all, risks his own life for the security of others is deserving of all our praise, recognition and thanks. Those few are also entitled to be thought of and treated as special, above all the rest. They have done what most could not or would not; they have paid prices most are unable to even imagine.
The very least we can do is encourage them to hold on to that identity, those hard earned understandings. It is wrong of us to expect them to be just like us; if they were, there would be no warriors, no one to stand for us against the terrors of the night.
It is with complete humility that I dare speak for these, our best and brightest. There are dozens, even scores of people who have given me their time, opened their hearts, allowed me just a glimpse into the most private and often most painful parts of their lives. It is with great trepidation that I hit the publish button on these posts, not because I fear others will disagree with me, but simply because no matter how I try, the fear that I will not be able to convey the great truths, the simple stories and the profound insights I’ve been privileged to hear nearly paralyzes me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.
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