This is a repost of something I wrote some time ago. In my mind, it deserves repeating, for the message comes from my heart and tells a great deal about what happens to many who are called to war.
Please bear with me and allow me this time and space.
Veterans are Warriors, men and women who are trained to kill, for society. Men and women who have taken the life of another human being. Even those Veterans that did not see action in the form of combat signed up or were drafted and followed orders. They would have given their life if asked. They would kill if they thought, at any brief moment in the throes of war, that they had to.
All soldiers, no matter what their military occupation is, are taught how to go to combat before learning any other skill or specialty. In basic training, these killing skills are taught to every soldier. Killing is the soldier warrior's job. The warrior is somehow stripped of the belief that life is too sacred to erase; then they are taught the details of exactly how to kill people. With a weapon, with their hands.
They are forced to practice it over and over and over and over until it is automatic, regardless of how scared they may be. Even if their hearts are pounding or if they are scared senseless, these warriors can still load, fire, and erase the life of the human being identified as the enemy. They kill, if not for themselves, for the soldier next to them who is a trained killer like them. A Brother or Sister, and for the society that has required their services as a killer.
Everyone who is trained to kill has lost something of themself and must find a way to control the imbalance that results. The military calls that control "self-discipline." Without it we would have millions of Timothy McVeigh's eliminating their perceived enemies with the lethal skills that they were trained for. These skills given to them with the approval of the rest of society. The military does not want nor allow this same “self discipline” to weigh in during the wartime activity.
We demand the warrior be disciplined and control themselves but when they return we treat them terribly. For those who have taken a life in a war and dealt with death, this discipline is a life-long struggle that is never truly resolved. They see the dead and relive the killings in their dreams. The soldier who kills another soldier comes home and one day realizes that there is a family somewhere in the world—in its own home—lacking a cherished family member. There are children who no longer have a father, mother or brother—women without their husbands and husbands without wives. No chance to fulfil the dream of growing old together.
That soldier who took a life may look at their own children when they get home, perhaps even years later, hug that child, and think about another child whose daddy or mommy they killed. How easy it would be for his or her child to be the parentless one! That soldier, trying to become a human being again, will not know what to say to anyone on this earth about this feeling. They will wonder if anybody understands what they are feeling—if anyone can. They may be able to share this feeling only with another Veteran, yet feel ashamed at reminding that Veteran of what he or she is also struggling to deal with. Worried that if he or she talks about it, they might be judged as bragging.
The real warrior is abandoned into silence. They fall upon the discipline that was introduced in them but they fall alone. Many Veterans forever fight this never-resolved battle.
Listen to the Vietnam War Veterans; listen to how they were received when they returned to this country. Listen to the Gulf War Vets that must fend for themselves as the very government that asks them to lay down their bodies vote down funding for proper and substantial treatment of their wounds.
In the case of the returning Vietnam Veterans, some were spat upon. Others had to withstand an onslaught of name calling that included things like baby killer and murderer. Society does not know this agent of death that is a warrior; it does not possess the skills nor the knowledge to reintegrate these people into society. Society asked them to kill on its behalf, but does little to return the warrior to a rightful place as a caring, compassionate member of a family and community.
Can the community do anything to help with this return to so-called normal society? The Warrior Veteran needs to be brought back into the Circle of Life. How can they find spiritual peace and understanding from the community? Only if the circle of their community is a healing circle.
Does the community ever rent a room, invite the Veterans, feed and honor them and listen to their stories of the atrocities of war or the horrors of being the deliverer of death to another by accident or for survival? When do they hear about arms blown off a man who walked down a road not knowing mines were there? Who will listen to the warrior's scramble for words that describe an incoming napalm strike on a village? Who hears the break in their voices?
These things happened. The blood and destruction has been seen by the Veteran. The community must acknowledge the sacrifice their Veteran was willing to give. Society and the community can not know and understand or postulate a reason for what has happened, for that same society and community allowed the war either by electing people into office or by sitting by and watching war upon war unfold without lifting a finger to stop it.
Who will sit and listen to the stories of these Veterans? Will the people of the community come forward and listen or will the Veteran be doomed to the darkness of a house where no one visits? Will the people lean down to say hello to the Veteran whose legs are missing because they were blown off in a battle, or will they cross the street in avoidance?
Many Veterans that seem like they are of sound body suffer with the intrusive thoughts of having to experience death first hand and in many cases, by their own hand. They are also in darkness. A Veteran struggling with his thoughts as he tries to understand PTSD is forever and constantly bombarded by shame, guilt, depression, anger, confusion and lonliness.
This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is grossly misunderstood by most people. Some even say things like, “Get a life” or “Get over it.” when they hear of a Veteran that gets disability for the loss of control of his own life from the struggles with PTSD.
A warrior is a hunter with death and blood on their hands and real horror to relive in their dreams. They are the ignored and too often the wounded walking suicide-to-be. They are the men and women with visions that they cannot, but want to, leave behind. They constantly try to be sorry for their actions but fail because the destruction of their own heart will not allow it. The blackness is there, forever.
The Warrior accepts the inevitable truth that they will live and die lonely as they struggle to be understood.
Think of these things the next time you see a Veteran. And remember, those who the Warrior fought because they were told they were the enemy are Warriors too. They and their families will suffer the same as “our side”. They also have PTSD. The Mothers and Fathers of those also cry at the loss of a loved one. Brothers and Sisters, Grandmothers and Grandfathers will miss them. We are all on the same side as far as issues with our Warriors.
The Native American communities have been stepping forward for many many years. They welcome back their Warriors. They have ceremonies and honoring Pow Wow’s for the Veterans. They are not glad there is war. But they realize this. The Veteran, drafted or enlisted, whether a regular Army soldier or a National Guard member who was deployed into war, was following orders because they took an oath. They were all willing to sacrifice their own life if need be. They accepted the pain and suffering that happens to them as a Warrior from witnessing the death and destruction firsthand. This is what is honored in the Veteran. Honor the Warrior, not the war.
After Vietnam, society had much confusion about the war. Let us not make the same errors in the way we treat our Veterans that are returning from the Persian Gulf. Let us make ammends to ALL Veterans from ALL eras, combat and non-combat.
Honor the dead. Heal the wounded. Work for peace and end all war.
cold- i have several links on my sidebar devoted to veteran's anti-war sites. there is a growing movement not just on the part of the families but the veterans themselves- and active troops- to put an end to this war and destruction. i would point you to IAVA- iraq and afghanistan vets against the war- and against starting anything in iran. we only get to see the gung ho military types in the media- but there is plenty of support for watada.
as for the rest of us being governmental victims- for sure. however, we were not asked to give our lives for our country and then denied what we were promised. these folks signed up for sure but many in past wars did not. when they enlisted they were promised that they would be paid and have access to healthcare and whatnot for life. it is what people do when they don't want to go to war themselves- they pay others to do it for them. the payment was supposed to come in the form of healthcare and whatnot. i personally think that the absolute hypocrisy of the bush admin (support the troops but then don't pay them- and the whole walter reed scandal) is reprehensible. does the rest of the country have issues- most certainly. but you can't compare civilians and soldiers- it's apples and oranges.
Spado very well written, Our country should be ashamed at the way our vets are treated. THis was beautifully written. Have a great weekend
The ones who deserve to be called names and spat upon are the politicians who started the wars.
I know you were doing what you thought was right - you thought you were saving people by fighting what we were told was evil.
I almost never talk to veterans about war or much of anything else. Almost all of them that I meet seem standoffish. I wonder why? Maybe they sense the hippie in me.
...I don't mean you, Joe, or Deuddersun or Scroff. You all are wonderful, warm, passionate human beings. The vets who seem standoffish are ones I happen to meet in person around town. Then there's one who seems crazy - a young man I run into occasionally who was in the Middle East. He's real loud and nervous and always has a crazy look in his eyes. He talks about soldiers dying and laughs. God only knows what happened to him to make him that way. It's sad.
You had me in tears. You have been gifted with the ability to teach from the heart. This piece of writing is about darkness but opens a path toward the light.
I have never killed anyone but was close to it - all decisions made, a weapon in hand when the predator gave up and left. I have chronic PTSD resulting from over 12 years of abuse when I was a child. PTSD rewired my brain and is a daily companion. Some of my PTSD has to do with some experiences while I was in the Army...icing on the cake.
I have fought to lessen it's control over my life for years. I doing better because I have been in treatment - I feel better and am much better at coping with it. I have been finding and maintaining balance. I am going to write about it in the future.
You wrote about being the hunter but are able to empathize with the prey ( whom you were assigned to kill) I was the prey in my own home but I do not empathize with the types of men that hunted me. I do not know if I ever will. I do have empathy for all of those who are forced to participate in war or are victims of it.
I made a copy of "Warrior" to give to my son (combat vet, scout Kosovo) whose PTSD is giving him quite some hassle. He is under treatment at the VA but they are slow with appointments (scant treatment). He is just waking up to realize what it is that he is dealing with. I think what you wrote will help him. I've got his back but it will be other combat vets who will help him heal. He can't tell me - his mom.
I think what you have written about the treatment of returning warriors is important and that we need to move toward such solutions. I am also a firm anti-war advocate. Let's invest in others forms of conflict resolution. Human to human killing is unnatural and abusive toward those who make up the armies that are aimed at each other. It is also abusive toward the human families they come from.
Thank you for writing this. Peace.
This piece puts the horror that i experience every night, the shame and self loathing that i feel every day and the guilt that i experience when i look at my own child into words.
Thank you for writing it.
coldh20 seems to have missed the point somewhat though, amazing how empowering righteous indignation of the healthy for an imagined slight in comparison to the complete disempowerment visited upon the broken.
thank you, I will share this with him...
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