Friday, November 11, 2016

Understanding Veterans

Thought for the day:  The willingness with which our young people serve our country shall be directly proportional to the way they perceive our nation and how it treats our veterans. [George Washington]

Today is Veterans Day, a day devoted to honoring the men and women who have served in the military. These dedicated  people put their civilian lives on hold, and if need be, put their lives on the line to defend our way of life. They selflessly personify the meaning of words like honor, duty, and sacrifice.

Today, there'll be a smattering of small-scale parades throughout the country in their honor, and some restaurants will be offering them free meals. Then tomorrow, it'll be back to business as usual. For civilians. Not so much for many veterans. Shutting off the experiences of military duty, especially for those who experience combat, is much more difficult than most civilians realize.

The following was originally posted for Veterans Day in 2011 as We Owe Them. With some editing, here it is again. Hopefully, it will help promote better empathy for our veterans.

To all of you veterans....Thank you.

To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace. [engraved on the Illinois Vietnam Veterans memorial]

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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]


It's  Veterans Day, and although this day was set aside to honor all veterans, I'd like to dedicate this post to our combat veterans, in particular. There's a definite disconnect between those who fight our wars and those of us who remain safely at home. This is nothing new, but it's still troubling. The reality of war is such that when soldiers in Vietnam talked about returning home, they referred to it as going back to the world. And when they did come hometheir 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. I can say from experience that it took twenty years... twenty years... before my husband started resembling the easy-going man he was before he went to Vietnam.

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. (Yep, also from experience...)

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 re-assimilate into civilian life. In 2007, in an attempt to help civilians better understand our returning soldiers. she produced a startling photographic essay, which I'm pleased to share with you now. Our veterans deserve not only our respect and 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. How about making it a point to hug a vet today?

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, shall we? How about a video of soldiers being welcomed home by their four-legged best friends... HAPPINESS personified.



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










48 comments:

  1. It is Remembrance Day here. Yes, our veterans are honoured, but today we were reminded that they need recognition/assistance all year. And sadly are not getting all that they need. We lose more of our returned servicemen and women to suicide than we do in the theatre of war.

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  2. This is so moving! Beautiful post.
    loved the dogs!

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    1. Those dogs sure know how to do a proper welcome, don't they? :)

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  3. They all deserve thanks indeed. Be great if they actually got the help some need when they came home too. Thinking outside ourselves sure makes complaining about the heat and potholes dumb.

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    1. Yeah, it would be great. Better yet, I wish they didn't have to go to war at all. You're right. Our complaints are petty when put into proper perspective.

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  4. "Thank you for your service" is a nice thing to say, but they are only words, not action. We have returning veterans at our food pantry and that alone is heartbreaking. These never-ending wars have given us returning soldiers with so many problems, both physically and mentally, and although our government tries to help, it is never enough.

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    1. I think those verbal thanks are much appreciated by most vets. I thanked a Korean War vet in the grocery store yesterday, and wished him an early Happy Veterans Day, and his face lit up like a lantern. A cub scout thanked my hubby for his service today, and so did a handful of others. It meant a lot to him.

      But I know what you're saying. It's heartbreaking that so many vets are in need.

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  5. What a moving, thought-provoking post. It's just sad that war, and the multitude of problems it causes, doesn't seem to be going anywhere. It is hard for us to understand the mental strain on soldiers but we can definitely be compassionate.

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    1. It is hard for us as civilians to fully comprehend the horrors and hardships of war, but you're right. We can strive to be compassionate and appreciative.

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  6. "When a soldier comes home"
    Good stuff!

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  7. It's Remembrance Day here but remembering is not enough...we need to do more for our war heroes.

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  8. Hi Susan - yes Alison has really shown us about a soldier's life ... and we shouldn't complain should we about anything - we are lucky. I'd hate to deal with PTSD ... I'm sure my father suffered hugely after WW2 ... we definitely should never forget all who keep us safe ... with thoughts to you and your family this weekend - Hilary

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    1. I can't imagine any soldier making it through war unchanged, whether we label it PTSD or shell shock, or whatever. We owe them a debt we can never repay.

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  9. An excellent salute and tribute. Much to remember and appreciate.

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  10. I feel like veterans should receive everything they need for life. We should take care of them...their financial and healthcare needs. That needs to become a priority! They do such an important service and sacrifice so much, to not take care of them is a tragedy.

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    1. Agreed. To turn a blind eye to their needs, and renege on promises made to them just so the budget-crazy, deficit-cutting politicians can save some money (which they'll blow on something else) is inexcusable.

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  11. This is an excellent, sobering post. And that photo essay?! Wow.
    We've come a long ways since the Viet Nam era, but I still wish our citizens were more compassionate and understanding of our vets ... not just once a year.

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    1. I thought that photo essay was a real stunner, too. Sometimes, a picture really IS worth a thousand words.

      Yeah, we have come a long way, baby, but we've still got a long way to go.

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  12. This was a beautiful post. I'm old enough to remember the shameful way this country treated its service men and women coming home from Vietnam - including my brother, who wanted no part of war but served because he was called. Our attitudes are better now (we no longer spit on soldiers arriving home) but our long term treatment is the same. There is no excuse for it.

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    1. You're right. The way Vietnam vets were treated was awful, and though things are better for today's vets, the country still needs to do better.

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  13. Loved seeing those doggy welcomes. I think Aussie vets were treated a bit better than the USA vets, but that's based on what I read online. I do know my ex didn't have to fight for the benefits he'd earned and his military pension was quite substantial; should have been plenty for us to live on as well as his wage from his civilian job, but he had trouble adjusting to civilian life and started gambling...

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    1. I love those doggie welcomes, too. (Although I'm crazy about our cats, their "welcome homes" after we've been gone away for more than a day or two generally involves them sitting in the room with their backs to us... )

      The readjustment to civilian life is extremely hard for many vets, and some never manage it at all.

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  14. Unfortunately, the true meaning of Veteran's Day has been lost by many of the younger generation. Thank you for an inspiring post that helps keep it alive.

    The video with the dogs is so sweet.

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    1. I dunno. Maybe I'm an optimist, but I think the younger generation is becoming more aware of the sacrifices made by veterans than what they used to be.

      Makes ya want to get a dog, doesn't it? (I bet your cats never greet you like that when you return from a trip down the mountain... )

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  15. Beautiful post. I agree with Jon, the meaning of Veterans Day has been lost on many. Plus the way we as a nation have treated our veterans.
    Especially the way the liberal coasts will throw money and benefits at illegal immigrants over what should be reserved for our citizens and legal immigrants. I and many others have political correctness rammed down our throat at the expense of everyday intelligence. Take care of the people who have taken care of our nation.
    Loved the doggie posts, I cried.

    A big hug to Smarticus !
    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Without a doubt, we can and must do better by our veterans.

      I knew that doggie video would be right up your alley. :)

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    2. Whilst not wishing to create any controversy, I feel I need to address your comment. Not all immigrants are illegal. Your new president-elect (I am only assuming that you voted for him, based on your comment. Please, correct me if I am wrong) is married to a citizen from another country, who, it turns out, worked illegally before settling in the US permanently. You criticise liberals but at least liberals have class. They do not go around telling other blokes how they take advantage of other their privileged status to "grab women by the p....", or offend an entire religion, or promise to build a wall (which will never materialise) to protect the US from "rapists" (what, all Mexicans? Wow, that's a big, masisve rapist-rich country).

      Some of us want to build a better world, a hatred-free world. This week's events have made that choice nigh on impossible. So, please, don't blame liberals.

      Greetings from London.

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    3. You have made a lot of assumptions.
      I thought I said illegal immigrants and said reserved for citizens and legal immigrants. My grandparents were legal immigrants.
      I live in a border state and town. I have see the inadequacies where a 15 year old Hispanic can have an anchor baby and then get section 8 housing, aid to dependent children, welfare, health care, and food stamps while our servicemen are waiting for a doctor visit, no health services, section 8 housing or even food stamps. That is illegal and very wrong. Our elderly retired, unable to work, have to chose between food and meds or utilities.
      I am a registered Democrat, I did not vote for Trump I Despise Trump I voted Bernie Sanders against Hillary in the primaries. My X knew people in the Clinton White House and I could never vote for Hillary never never.
      We are being liberal to the detriment of the middle class (me). All the DNC talked about was the Hispanic vote but nothing about what they wanted to do or help the elderly, veterans, the working poor like my Gay Daughter. I am more scared of Pence than Trump ! OMG !
      But the extreme liberals keep talking AT the midwest and southwest even as our jobs are being sent to Mexico and overseas.
      My daughter was working below poverty level in California and still had to pay income tax as California need so much money for all the services for illegals. Remember Governor Brown said this is an Illegal State now.
      So I do blame the extreme liberals for leaning so far left
      I am a conservative who lives very frugal I do not have any debt, worked hard all my life and saved. I have an old car paid off, a home and one rescued dog. I cut and color my own hair.

      I agree with you I want a better world, we all need to take a breath and step back. When did conservative become a bad word and liberal a good word.
      I wish I had more time and space to talk to you about all I see.
      Over half of the babies born in Arizona are from single Hispanic teens or older Mothers with several children already. The most used new baby name is Juan and these mothers are on welfare.

      I have written this very badly because I have some brain damage and writing what I want to say is very hard for me.
      But I don't think you can not just say Liberals have class and conseratives are not.
      Remember Heather Bresch CEO at Mylan raised the cost of EpiPens to over 500 % and the executive pay of the company get huge windfall every year boy are they the 1%. is a Liberal Dem woman and is a huge doner to the Clintons foundation.
      As for the rapist quote. The cartels members are crossing the border and have been for many years (50), the people they run across the border carry their drugs. They bring drugs, killers, rapist, run children and women for sex.
      My brother worked for the USFS. he was in Law Enforcement, was a tracker and a CSI. He rescued people was shot at had friends killed or blown apart, made drug raid, fought forest fires set by cartel drug runners. He saw animal and human abuse. Yes not all illegal immigrants are bad but not all are good either.

      So while I agree with most of what you said you too must relise many of us who live here and see this abuse everyday (local news)
      do not agree with Trump. But I don't need a East Coast/West Coast extreme liberal to come and talk down to me.

      Also read about the Women of Mexico protesting the Macho Male Culture of Mexico and how they abuse rape and use women in their country. It has been in our Local Papers. I assume in the World News also.

      cheers, parsnip

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  16. That photo essay really brings it home. Probably the best thing that we could do for our men and women in the service is to strive not to send them into combat. And if that is unavoidable, then take care of them as promised. Providing them with the care they need should be as normal as a paycheck being deposited into the checking account of any worker on payday.

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  17. Respect. Plenty of respect to you. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. Thank you. Back atcha.

      Greetings from Atlanta.

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  18. Moving and instructive post. There are lessons in humankindness that our nation needs to learn over and over again. You've done a good thing here, Susan.

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    1. Thanks, dude. Some lessons have to be learned and re-learned. To give up on kindness would be unthinkable.

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  19. This post made me tear up...such lessons in this. Thanks Susan.

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  20. Cheers and many thanks to our awesome veterans! I can't even pretend to know what they go through, and for that... well, I'm damn thankful.

    Also, I don't think I could ever get sick of those dogs greeting soldiers videos.

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    1. It's hard to know exactly what they go through, because most of them refuse to talk about it.

      Me, neither, but I wonder why there aren't any welcome home videos featuring cats...? HA. (My cats just gave me a dirty look for even suggesting such an outlandish thing.)

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  21. I can't even begin to come up with the words to say thank you. Their service and sacrifice chokes me up. Only the very special among us will sacrifice themselves for others. And like you say, even when the body comes home whole, they still leave a little part of themselves on those battlefields.

    I should go write congress for better VA everything. They should be getting the gold standard in everything.

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    1. Yes, they should be getting the gold standard, but far too many of them have ended up with meaningless paper promises.

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  22. Susan, I couldn't have said it as well, I can not imagine the hell that the soldiers go through and when I think about the silly things I have complained about over the years... this is such a good reminder of what is really important. I too believe that men/women who go to war and fight for our freedom totally deserves all of our gratitude and thankfulness...

    It is good to be back, I have missed reading your posts xox

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    1. Hi-ya, kiddo! Welcome back.

      We're all guilty of making mountains out of molehills at times, so it helps us put things into perspective when we're reminded what real mountains look like.

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  23. I say it every year too, in the greatest depths of humility. People assume just because these veterans come back from the war "intact" visibly, they're just fine. I can hardly imagine the mental scarring that comes with the things they see and have to do. We can't honor or thank them too profusely. We just can't.

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    1. You're right. The unseen mental scarring is worse than the physical wounds we can see.

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