November 11th is a very important day. It is the day we honor Veterans. The brave men and women who leave the safety and comfort of home and family to serve their country, often in places that are unbearable and inhospitable…nothing like home.
Having to endure the atrocities of war, or live through intolerable conditions in service to one’s country is one of life’s most difficult experiences. We are all familiar with the acronym, PTSD today, but most of us are fortunate that we don’t have any concept of what it’s like to live through the kinds of experiences that actually create Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I know something about this first-hand as my father was a medic who landed on the beach at Normandy on D-Day.
For years his PTSD went un-discussed and unknown to his own family and friends. He never talked about the horrors he experienced as a 17 year-old who had lied about his age so that he could have the honor of serving his country. He never talked about holding dying men, his own age as they cried for their mothers. He never talked about having to prepare their dead bodies for transport or about watching some of them drown before they ever hit the beach because their packs were too heavy and the water too deep.
These were the realities he was experiencing one cold day in June, while others his age were having fun with friends or girlfriends, safe at home. And for years they were just secrets he kept out of fear that others would think him crazy if they knew what he was going through.
Here’s the really sad news, even though we all know about PTSD now and the fear my father had is no longer founded, our veterans still don’t get all of the help they need. They still don’t feel totally comfortable talking about the symptoms that torture them.
I recently talked to a Vet who was incapacitated from his full-time work by an injury inflicted by the enemy during Vietnam and he only gets a little over $500.00 a month from the government. I also just learned that 80% of the homeless in a town near me, are Veterans. This is a travesty. We are not adequately serving those who served this country without question.
Let’s look briefly at the loss and grief issues people with PTSD from war experience.
Loss of health or limb, loss of trust, loss of full physical functioning, loss of confidence, loss of a sense of safety, losses of faith in country and its leadership, loss of emotional stability, only to name a few. And for most of our Vets there aren’t adequate counseling services. We have to do better!
Is it any wonder that without counseling and support, these men and women can’t re-enter normal living? When I was doing my internship at a psychiatric hospital, one of the first patients I worked with, who had an addiction to Xanax, told me that one day he was on the streets of Hanoi and the next day he was on the streets of San Francisco with no debriefing or counseling. Somehow he was supposed to go from the insanity of war to normal life without a hitch. And for many they never found their way back to normal life.
For my Dad the story has a happy ending. After enduring years of emotional hell, and alcohol addiction, he attended one of my grief groups and recognized that he had been grieving without support for years. He did the grief work and then received additional counseling through the VA and today he functions beautifully and lives a happy, healthy life.
At nearly 90 years of age, he wrote a book about his life experiences called, One Veteran’s Journey to Heal the Wounds of War. In addition, he was recently able to visit my daughter in New Orleans and attend the National World War ll Museum in New Orleans, where he was treated like the hero that he is. Not only was he able to visit the museum free of charge, and wore a special Veteran lanyard and was thanked for his service at every exhibit, the museum recorded his oral history and it may become part of the exhibits in the museum some day. We are delighted for Dad, but for every story like his there are thousands of tragic stories filled with drugs, alcohol, suicide and other forms of self-destruction.
This Veteran’s Day, really take a moment to think about how our Vets have served us, and the numerous sacrifices they make in doing so. I wonder what it would be like if instead of saying to a Vet, “Thank you for your service.” Everyone of us said to them, “How can I be of service to you?”
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
Former Blog Archive
Thank you for reading Paula's Blog. Because our site moved in June, we were unable to transfer all of our blog posts over. You can however, read the rest of them by visiting our old blog site. HERE