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Tag: PTSD

On a background of the US flag are the symbols of the five branches of US military service and the words "Veterans Day: Remembering all who served."

Service comes at a price

All of our current service members have chosen to be there, standing between us and our foes. Increasing numbers of veterans volunteered for their tours of duty. They signed up to protect and defend their country and the Constitution. I believe their choices deserve our honor and deepest respect. Because their service comes at a price.

On the backdrop of a US flag, we have symbols for all five branches of the service, Marines, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force, and the words "Veterans Day, Remembering all who served."

We still have a lot of Boomer veterans, and significant numbers who served in the Korean War, or (like my 95-year-old father) in World War II. But the USA has had an all-volunteer force since early 1973.

I remember hearing the news that the draft had been ended. I felt relieved, after years of seeing my male classmates and friends conscripted for the Vietnam War. Though early results were worrisome, most observers now agree our professional armed forces are more effective than when we relied on draftees in earlier times.

Enduring challenges of military service

Military service comes at a price. It changes a person. It usually begins when the person is coming of age. This makes it a powerful lens through which the person views the rest of his or her life

Long-term studies identify both negative and positive outcomes. There are many positive outcomes, such as higher levels of fitness, organizational skills, teamwork competence, and more.

But service in time of war is dangerous and difficultIn some cases it inflicts crippling trauma or enduring health issues. And we’ve had continual war for long enough in recent years that some serving now in Afghanistan or elsewhere weren’t even born yet on that infamous 9/11.

Among the worst outcomes are higher suicide rates among veterans than the general population and a persistent pattern of homeless veterans.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that “homeless” and “veteran” are two words that should never go together, and that losing 17 veterans to suicide each day while the VA underspends by millions of its budget for helping them is unconscionable.

A dark background and a black-and-white photo of a homeless veteran combine to make the point, along with an anonymous quote: "I was prepared to serve, I was prepared to be wounded, I was prepared to die. However: When I came home, I was not prepared to be forgotten."

Acknowledging that service comes at a price

By now most of us have learned that the popular phrase “Thank you for your service” can come across as hopelessly glib and thoughtless to some veterans. 

For a significant number it’s on the same order as the phrase “thoughts and prayers,” when offered as a cheap substitute for action.

How do we move beyond “thank you for your service” (however well-meant or deeply felt)? Can we express our gratitude in more practical ways? Dr. Michael B. Brennan of Psychology Today, who is himself a veteran, offers three suggestions.

Dr. Brennan’s three suggestions

First, go ahead and say “Thank you.” Many veterans still appreciate it, as does Dr. Brennan. On Veterans Day a few years ago, I posted a list similar to his, entitled “Three creative ways to thank a veteran.” I continue to stand by what I said there.

Second, get involved locally with initiatives designed to help and support veterans. Advocate. Interact with veterans at local VFW or American Legion posts. Or work with other credible local nonprofits. 

Here in Kansas City we have the nationally-recognized Veterans Community Project. But everywhere has (or should have!) something. And there’s nothing that says you really do care, better than face-to-face interaction

Because I believe in the organization, and because this video offers insights we can transfer to other contexts, here’s a little more on the Veterans Community Project:

Third, Brennan suggests that you educate yourself. Take time to develop “Cultural competence.” When you understand more about veterans’ issues, it shows when you interact with them. You’re also better able to advocate for improvements when you know more. 

That’s important. Advocacy matters! For veterans, it matters because service comes at a price. But sometimes politicians and others don’t want to remember that, or help pay for it.

What does your community do to support veterans? Are you involved in advocacy? Local volunteer action? Please share in the comments, if you’re willing.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to the City of Coronado, CA, for the Veterans Day graphic, to the HeartMath Institute (via @Sharon4Veterans on Twitter and Pinterest) for the “Not prepared to be forgotten” image, and to The Veterans Community Project and Kansas City’s Atlas Roofing, for the video describing the Veterans Community Project, who runs it, and why their tiny homes for homeless veterans are built the way they are.

Forgetting is not an option

Remembering September 11, 2001

We saw the worst of humanity that day. But we also saw some of the best. I hope you’ll enjoy this tribute, with actual footage from that day at Ground Zero.

You also might appreciate this short National Geographic production about United Flight 93

Unfortunately, many 9/11 heroes are still “layin’ it all on the line.” A variety of respiratory illnesses and cancers have been linked to the pollution encountered by both survivors and first responders. But the trauma experienced that day has left many with PTSD and other mental health effects, as well. Last year, on the 15th anniversary, CBS News ran this item:

Clearly, not all sacrifices are made in a blaze of glory that ends quickly. The lingering effects of our collective trauma from that day still haven’t played out.

VIDEO: Many thanks to Allec Joshua Ibay on YouTube, for the “Everyday Heroes” musical tribute to the first responders at Ground Zero. The song that gives the video so much of its emotional power, please note, is by Dave Carroll, who is not credited on Ibay’s video (however, Ibay’s images are more focused on the events of 9/11/01 than the video Carroll posted). You can buy Carroll’s single or album on Amazon. Thanks also to The CBS Evening News and YouTube, for the video about first responders’ mental health. Additional thanks to CBS News for the image of the firefighter at Ground Zero.

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