Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I want to write about. I just play some music and let the words flow from my fingers. Today is Veteran's Day. I know a lot of veterans that are deserving of our love and praise. There are many more that I don't know, will never know, and will be eternally grateful for.

From as far back as I can remember, I can recall stories of war. My Great Uncle was part of the Allied Forces that liberated camps in Germany. He was a soft spoken man by the time I can remember him, far older than myself and ravaged with age, sometimes he could barely be heard at all. Even as a child I recognized the haunted look in his eyes when he spoke about some of the things he saw. Of course, as a child, he was careful of what he said around me and my siblings. Mostly what he talked about was what it was like coming home. How he couldn't sleep for days at a time, how he could still hear the guns and the men around him shouting orders.

Whenever I think of him, my heart swells up. I am so proud that he was a part of me, a part of my family . I felt honored to know that someone in my life was one of those  who sacrificed. My father also served in the military, as did another uncle, my brother, a cousin, a cousin's spouse (and his twin brother) and numerous friends. Men, women, young, old, white, Japanese, Korean, etc. The list can go on and on but the bottom line is that war does not discriminate. He will embrace you all throughout, for as long as he can, he will draw you in and change your heart, your mind, your soul, and your body. No part of you can walk away unscathed when we speak of the fickle beast known as war.

This brings me back to my thoughts today. My thoughts that go back to a young couple that worked for me many years ago.

I had a young couple that came to work for me. The young man was barely twenty-one and his girlfriend was about nineteen. They had met just before he went to Iraq to serve for the Army. I had many conversations with them during the time they worked for me, as I like to get to know people on a personal level.

He told me that he had joined the military because he felt it was his duty to his country. I agreed that everyone has a duty to their country, even if they do not do this by serving in the military. He spoke to me of some of the things that he had been through, some of the things he had seen. Perhaps soon I will go into those, but during this time he was happy to be home and looked forward to building a life with his girlfriend. Within weeks he had saved enough money to buy her a ring and he proposed and they intended to get married within a few months.

Then came 9/11. The anniversary of the beginning of what would lead to a war many believed to be built on lies. The anniversary of a day that changed millions of lives.

That day he came to work as usual, was a little quieter then normal. There were people around him discussing the date, the significance of it to them and he suddenly stood up and threw his headset down and walked away, all the way outside. Both his girlfriend and I followed him out to find him sitting on the curb. He was shaking and holding his head and as she reaches for his shoulder I put my hand out to stop her, I had seen that look before and I knew that she would be in danger even as I knew he would never want to hurt her.

She called his name three times before he managed to pull his head up to look at her fully. It was like he didn't really see her though and he stood quickly and backed up. Hurt and confusion flickered over her face and I placed a hand on her arm in hopes of keeping her from advancing on him.

He turned and walked away. He did not return to work for me, but she did. We spoke about his struggles and her difficulty in dealing with it, she begged him to get help through the VA hospital. To add to her despair, she found out that she was expecting his child and she couldn't share it with him because she was afraid he would not be able to handle the additional pressure of impending father hood.

Roughly two weeks later, I called to check on her because she didn't come to work. As soon as she heard my voice she broke down and through her sobs recounted a story that was so disturbing to me that I actually went to our Human Resource department and asked to speak to someone.

They had moved in with his mother, so that while she was at work he would have someone to watch over him constantly. He seemed to be losing touch with reality with every passing moment and she was terrified to leave him alone. He had gone to bed early the night before and after spending some time discussing with his mother a way to get him some help, she went up and climbed into bed with him.

She awoke a few hours later and found herself alone so she began to search the house for him. She found his mother huddled in the bathroom sobbing. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and found his way into her bedroom.

Through her sobs she told me every detail of what took place and I shook at the atrocity of it. My stomach turned several times and I felt that I would throw up. I can't even begin to detail the story here, but I can tell you that being over there, being a part of a war where every man, woman, and child was the enemy, destroyed a part of this young man. It desensitized him to the morals that we cling to with every fiber of our being.

Through my blog I have corresponded with several young men and women who have either served, or are currently serving in Iraq and every story seems the same to me. They are being broken down, their self worth is in shambles as they fight for their very survival against people who do not want them there, all because of a pack of lies. The news is full of incidents involving ex-soldiers who have come back suffering not only physically but psychologically, I get tired of the mentality that war is romantic.

I find there to be nothing romantic about pain and suffering, despair and black holes. If you thinks it is so romantic, perhaps he should re-enlist and serve on the front lines.

There has been so much stupidity in the name of politics that I can not even begin to cover it all in one post, it would probably take me weeks, so instead I will leave you with a slightly happier note.

I ran into this young couple a few years later, they have a beautiful baby girl and went through with their plans to be married. He is currently in therapy as well as taking medication for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she has joined a local support group for spouses of men or women who have gone through this. They seem to be willing to do the work it is going to take to make their individual and joint lives a success.

There is so much that is given up by those we call "veterans" and the word itself echos with a mentality of the past where their lives, their pain, their hurt, no longer touches us. But it does! They are here, right now, in our lives, suffering and having to learn in society all over again. Take a moment, thank them, truly be grateful for their sacrifices, the sacrifices of their families, and even if it is only a  moment, offer up a whisper for your higher being to watch over all of them the way that they watched over others. You will be glad that you did.

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