“This country has not seen and probably will never know the true level of sacrifice of our veterans. As a civilian, I owe an unpayable debt to all our military… Let’s all take a remembrance for all veterans who served or are serving, peacetime or wartime and gone or still with us.”
― Thomas M Smith
It is easy to mouth platitudes and to pay lip service to our military veterans, especially on days such as Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Day. However, do we actually have an intimate understanding of the mental, physical, and emotional impact of surviving a war? I’m not sure that, apart from medical professionals and the soldiers themselves, that we understand what goes on inside the mind of someone who has seen the atrocities of war.
Do we understand the horrors of reliving the nightmares of the desperate firefights to survive? These nightmares, as well as reliving the horrors of war, often turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the US Department of Military Affairs, the number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era; however, it seems as though the average overall figure is between 10-15% of people who have served in the armed forces develop PTSD in a given year.
What is PTSD?
David Brooks in his opinion piece, “The Moral Injury,” speaks about David J. Morris who, on his return from the war in Iraq said that “his imagination careened out of control; he envisioned fireballs erupting while on trips to the mall. His emotions could go numb, but his awareness was hyper vigilant. Images and smells from the war were tattooed eternally fresh on his brain, and he circled back to them remorselessly.”
This opinion piece is probably one of the best descriptions of post-war PTSD that I have read. It describes the essence of what returning servicemen and women go through on a daily basis.
Morris further describes the condition in his book, “The Evil Hours”: “Trauma destroys the fabric of time… In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again… In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhaust can be mustard gas.”
How can we help our Military Veterans?
One of the issues that veterans face when transitioning back to civilian society is that because they have committed what society calls moral atrocities, they feel ostracized from society. They have gone against our common beliefs of “peace, love, and harmony for all.” People who have been to war often feel as though they are no longer part of our universe because, no matter how justified, the act of killing or injuring opposition soldiers is a crime.
Therefore, I believe that as a country and society, we should go out of our way to ensure that the returning veterans feel as though they will be accepted back in society. We should send them a message that, in spite of the fact that killing people is considered a crime, we understand that they had to destroy the opposing forces to protect us.