I spent days trying to figure out how to start this. Explain the dream I had about you? Or, elaborate on your existence?
Once a person becomes a soldier, that’s what they are for the rest of their lives. Not only do the baby boomers have this characteristic of a one track path, but one who served in the military is either doomed or lucky.
Last week I interviewed two type of veterans for my job.
One was a World War II Veteran who captured the first POW on Iwo Jima. He also witnessed both flags being raised. The ones you talked about and the one you had a statue of that I probably broke a piece off of at one point.
In short, he returned to the U.S., continued on to get his Bachelors and Masters and started a steel business. I’d say he ended up well off – married his childhood sweet heart and had a kid. They were together for 69 years.
The other source was an Iraq veteran. He joined as soon as he turned 18 to fight the people who attacked our country on 9/11. Remember? You were getting me off to school the morning a bunch of planes were on the television. The impact of that never went away. We’re still at war.
He told me that World War I was the war to end all wars and that the government should have never had you go to Vietnam, just like they had their intentions wrong for Iraq soldiers. He said they lied to him. He saw a lot in combat, just like you. He was homeless for many years and can barely be around crowds, reminds me of you.
Two years later he’s back in the states with minor injuries and a permanent case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Depression. We’ve all heard of PTSD but some may have never experienced it like I had with you.
I never caught on to why you jumped when I came in the room and you didn’t hear me. I never even knew what shrapnel was, but you said you had it in your neck. I never knew you received a purple heart until it was inscribed on your grave.
The Iraq veteran didn’t get a purple heart. He didn’t qualify. He also isn’t getting the treatment he needs. My heart went out to him, while trying to remain unbiased. However, I asked him why he thought his life turned out differently than the WWII vet.
He didn’t really know how to respond.
“Maybe it was the different time period. Vets didn’t really talk about what they saw in the war back then.”
Maybe if you could talk about it more, in detail, you would have gotten better. Maybe if the VA took care of you better, you wouldn’t have damaged your health otherwise. Maybe if you had a better support system, you would have thrived.
I’m sorry your upbringing could have contributed to so many things and the environment in your adult life didn’t make it better. Now, I understand why you drank. I remember all the times I asked you to stop for me, like I was going to make you stop. It was a force greater than me.
It didn’t matter what was put in front of you, because you couldn’t let go of the past.
This Veterans Day, and every other day, listen to a vet, and if they don’t talk, give them a hug and be there for them, because they even if they’re there physically, their mind is elsewhere.