Sunday, January 11, 2015

A reminder from Captain Tightpants

My blogbuddy Captain Tightpants reminds us via a link that we need to welcome home our combat veterans and do all we can to help them fit into society again.  Please read the article at that link before continuing here.

I'd like to second the author's call from my own perspective.  When I came to the USA I was just about burned out after eighteen years of civil unrest, periodic (uniformed) war service, which had its own stresses and memories, and far too much experience of trying to help the victims of violence in South Africa.  I came here because I knew I needed to make a fresh start.  If I'd stayed in South Africa, I think I'd have become just another 'stress casualty' of the long conflict, as happened to far too many friends of mine (like Mike, for example).

I was fortunate enough to find a counselor who'd spent three tours of duty in Vietnam before changing career direction.  He understood my combat burnout and hyper-sensitive reflexes, because he'd 'been there and done that' himself.  We spent three years talking things through, and I suspect our conversations helped him as much as they helped me.  By the time we were done I had a better handle on the experiences that had helped to shape and form me into what I am today, and I was much better balanced all round.  (Thanks, Primo.  You did good, buddy.)

Later I had an epiphany while watching the SEAL movie 'Act of Valor', about which I wrote at some length (as did my wife).  The reality of combat as portrayed there lifted our relationship to a new level, because I was able to figure out - to my astonishment - that my wife really did understand some parts of my past, which I'd always believed would be a closed book to most if not all civilians.  In the USA the 'military brat' subculture is sometimes a real blessing in that regard.  I've since spoken to other combat veterans who've watched that movie, and we all agree;  it was a very good job, very well done, and portrays the realities of combat better than almost any other movie we can think of.

Thanks to that background and all I've learned about myself and others, I'd like to echo the original author's call to help returning veterans whenever possible.  Some of them have been forever changed by their experiences.  Don't mock them;  don't shy away from them as 'weird';  instead, understand that they've been standing between you and the darkness.  As George Orwell put it:

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

That's what many veterans have done for us, and it's changed them forever.  Please be there for them, and help them adjust.  It's the least we can do.



Old NFO said...

And a good one it is! That is one reason so many of us Vietnam vets showed up at the airport when the kids were coming back to the states after their tours. WE remember how we were treated, and don't want that repeated!

Bart Noir said...

According to WikiQuote, that is not a quotation from Orwell: ". . . the earliest known appearance in a 1993 Washington Times essay by Richard Grenier . . "

But it most certainly sums up Orwell's viewpoint. Mine too.