Friday, November 11, 2011

We Owe Them

Thought for the day:  As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.   John F. Kennedy

I know it's Friday, but it's also Veterans Day, and recognition of our veterans takes priority over my usual posting. We'll get back to lampooning state laws next week, okay?

This week, let's take time to salute our veterans. Particularly our combat veterans. There is a definite disconnect between those who fight our wars and those of us who remain safely at home. This is nothing new, but it is still troubling. The reality of war is such that when soldiers in Vietnam spoke of returning home, they referred to it as going back to the world. And when they did come home, their faces often wore a bone-chilling thousand yard stare. That stony expression didn't go away overnight, either; in many cases, it didn't go away for decades. If at all.

In earlier wars, the lengthy ride home via ship allowed time for decompression. Not a lot, and certainly not enough, but more than our soldiers coming home from Nam got, and more than our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get. One day, our soldiers are in a stress-filled war zone, and the next, they're sitting around the family table, shell-shocked, asking someone to please pass the eff-ing potatoes.

And yet, many of us treat our soldiers as though they should simply put the war behind them. Get over it. 

It isn't that simple. Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, author of Odysseus in America, describes what our returning soldiers face as follows:  In combat, you have to shut down those emotions that do not directly serve survival. So sweetness, the gentler forms of humor, grief --- all shut down. And this is profoundly disconcerting to families when a soldier comes back, and he seems to be made out of ice. It's not that he is irrevocably and permanently incapable of feeling anything. It's that this adaptation of shutting down those emotions that don't directly serve survival in combat is persisting. 

Registered nurse Alison L. Crane, a former Captain and mental health observer-trainer for the 7302 Medical Training Support Battalion, is all too familiar with the difficulties veterans face when trying to assimilate back into civilian life. In 2007,  to help civilians better understand our returning soldiers, she produced a startling photographic essay, which I am pleased to share with you now. For our veterans deserve not only our respect and our appreciation, but our understanding, as well. Ms. Crane's photographic essay is called

                                                  WHEN A SOLDIER COMES HOME

           When a soldier comes home, he finds it hard to listen to his son whine about being bored.

                              ... to keep a straight face when people complain about potholes.

           ... to be tolerant of people who complain about the hassle of getting ready for work.

                        ... to be understanding when a coworker complains about a bad night's sleep.

                                        ... to be silent when people pray to God for a new car.

                           ... to control his panic when his wife tells him he needs to drive slower.

                     ... to be compassionate when a businessman expresses a fear of flying.

   ... to keep from laughing when anxious parents say they're afraid to send their kids off to summer camp.

                      ... to keep from ridiculing someone who complains about hot weather.

          ... to control his frustration when a colleague gripes about his coffee being cold.

             ... to remain calm when his daughter complains about having to walk the dog.

                                      ... to be civil to people who complain about their jobs.

             ... to just walk away when someone says they only get two weeks of vacation a year.

               ... to be forgiving when someone says how hard it is to have a new baby in the house.

                                                The only thing harder than being a soldier

                                                                      is loving one.

And when you meet one of our returning soldiers, please remember what they've been through, and show them compassion and tolerance.  [Pictures and text courtesy of Alison Crane]

A very special thank you to all our veterans out there. For all you non-vets, with an estimated 24.9 million veterans in the country, it should be fairly easy to find one to thank. God knows, they've earned it.

Congress should stop treating veterans like they're asking for a handout when it comes to the benefits they were promised, and they should realize that, were it not for these veterans, there would be nothing to hand out.    Nick Lampson (former Texas Congressman )

Let's end on a feel-good note. Wanta see a short video of a soldier being welcomed home by his dog? Guaranteed to make you smile.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. Excellent Veteran's Day post. Thank you. :)

    I love that video!

  2. We can all help a veteran. Consider volunteering at a VA Hospital near you. They can use your smiles and whatever else you bring. Hospitalized vets need our support. Thanks for bringing this up, Susan.

  3. Beautiful beautiful touching..I'm afraid I'm going to be weepy all day with all these beautiful remembrance/veterans day posts floating about.

  4. Wonderful and touching post, almost gave me the chills to read it. And there is no question we all need to remember to put things in perspective sometimes.

    I've seen the dog video before and love it. So adorable, and very touching.

  5. Hi, ladies. Thank you for your comments.

    Linda- Hey, you're supposed to be working on your book! Chop! Chop! (Thanks for stopping by. Now, back to work!)

    Austan- You're absolutely right about the hospitalized vets. Bad enough that they're in the hospital, but they mustn't ever be forgotten, or feel unappreciated.

    Delores- Thanks. Maybe we should all be a little weepy today.

    Julie- Glad it touched your heart. You're so right about the need for perspective.

    Y'all take care.

  6. Too many wars, too many victims. And so it continues.......

    Breaks my heart.

  7. Wonderful tribute. While I don't always like our modern-day motives for war, I have nothing but respect and compassion for all our soldiers. The least we can do is contribute worthy tax dollars to our veterans in need, back "in the world". It's impossible to adjust without support.

    Thanks Susan.

  8. Hi, Arleen. I know what you mean. It almost killed me when our son was in the Army. Bad enough going through a war with my husband; I couldn't bear the thought of war changing our son.

    Carrie- Thanks. Too many people fail to separate the war from the warrior. That's why so many Vietnam vets were treated so poorly when they came home.

  9. So much pain and suffering. So much sacrifice. We owe everything to our veterans--of all the wars.

    What a beautiful tribute, Susan!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  10. Hi, Ann. You're right. We do owe them everything. Thanks.

    Sarah- Thank you, ma'am.

  11. This was amazing. The photos say it all.

  12. Absolutely right. I just wish that those who think otherwise would simply stay at home and shut up. I think we all know who I mean.

    Great video...I think he had to stop himself from giving her a huge kiss.

  13. Hi, Susan. Yes, she did a marvelous job with the pictures, didn't she?

    Cro- Yes, there's irony in seeing people protesting a war, when those who are fighting it are the ones who earned them the right to protest.

    Take care.

  14. Wow, those pictures were moving. Lovely tribute, Susan.

  15. Lovely sentiments, Wonderful pics. That adage that a picture paints a 1,000 words is so true.

  16. Hi, Jennifer. I'm glad they moved you, too.

    Donna- Absolutely, only I think her captions gave the pictures even more of an impact.

  17. Well said Susan! Such a moving post! Being a dog owner I really appreciated the clip! That was so sweet!

    Happy Saturday!

  18. Hi Susan - your tribute here is just wonderful .. and Alison Crane's photographic essay is amazing.

    Personally I think we should use these thoughts in our future lives at all times ... so many complain for nothing - if only we sat back and realised what life is about ... life is tough, but not nearly as bad as many make out ... rallying together we can help one another.

    I've asked Ann to post this comment as unfortunately I can't comment on your blog .. as the embedded comment box won't let me ...
    You can email me at full name (no hyphen) at

    Many thanks - very poignant reading .. but so true .. Hilary

  19. Hilary (Melton-Butcher) is one of my dearest friends, as she is a friend to many of us Bloggers. As for Blogger and its glitches, I'm still very happy I switched to WordPress. The way I've set it up, I don't lose any of my Blogger followers!

    ANYONE can reach me, as Hilary did, if they're having trouble commenting!! annbest37 at yahoo dot com.
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  20. Hi, OB&CS. Glad you enjoyed it. One of the nice things about dogs is they sometimes give that exuberant a welcome when you're simply returning from a short trip to the store.

    Ann- Thank you so much for relaying Hilary's comments. You're a real peach.

    Hilary- Sorry you had trouble posting your comment, but I appreciate you sticking with it and getting Ann to post for you. And I agree with you. Goes back to that old saying about "I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." Sometimes we get so focused on our own problems, we fail to appreciate how insignificant they are compared to others. FYI, when I had problems posting comments on some Blogger sites, I stopped using Microsoft Explorer and switched to Google's Chrome. It's free and works a kazillion times better.

  21. Oops. Sorry, N. Didn't mean to ignore you. Thank you for stopping by, and I appreciate your comment.

  22. so...... SO powerful! thank you for posting. lots to do, lots of healing to do. we owe everything to our veterans

  23. Hi, Green Monkey. I'm glad it struck you as powerful, too, I think it's one of those things we should all see.

  24. We definitely owe them, and that's the least we should say about it. As you’ve said, they are suffering from so much more. The war doesn't quickly end for a lot of our folks in uniform, and a new life doesn't start easily. There are emotions and traumas that linger. We should look at the full range of their struggles in order to serve them promptly and truly give back.

    Brad Post @ Jan Dils

    1. Well said, Brad. It's always a surprise when someone makes a comment on an older post... but a pleasant surprise. Thank you, dear sir.