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A Fresh Perspective
I recently had the pleasure to view a slide show created by by CPT ALISON L. CRANE, RN, MS Mental Health Nurse Observer-Trainer of the 7302nd Medical Training Support Battalion. Please be sure to view the actual presentation by following the link at the bottom of my Hub, in addition to reading my thoughts on the matter. "War may be hell… but home ain't exactly heaven, either." This is the initial claim in which Crane began her presentation. What I believe Crane to have meant by this statement is simply that when a soldier returns home from war, they do not feel at home any longer. It is all the simple things that we take for granted on a daily basis, that overwhelm a soldier when he returns home. Returning home and assimilating back into the meld of "normal" day-to-day life is a daunting task that puts enormous pressures on an individual in ways that most of us do not even realize. This is the purpose of this presentation; to get us to realize that, often times, coming home, for a soldier, is not the same celebratory event that it is for those that the soldier is returning home to.
In a November 2006 Newsweek article by Karen Breslau, Staff Sergeant Duane Leventry recounted a simple trip to a grocery store. Sgt. Leventry returned from over a year in Iraq and on a simple trip to the supermarket, "he found himself staring at an aisle full of steak sauce and marinade, paralyzed by the sheer volume of choices." This average and simple task brought a grown man to a stand still in a public supermarket. Stories like this are far less heard, instead we hear of joyful wives greeting their husbands, tearful mothers greeting their sons, and children waiting to welcome their parents home.
Crane's use of imagery combined with her use of words is meant to evoke an awakening within those who see her presentation. What she is looking for, is for the general public to realize that when these soldiers have returned from war, they need understanding and compassion and time; time to reconnect with day-to-day life, and to become a functioning part of society again. By pairing an image of a soldier sleeping on the hood of an army Hummer with words saying that a soldier finds it hard, "to be understanding when a co-worker complains about a bad night's sleep," Crane achieves almost sheer irony. By using such strong images, Crane is able to achieve getting her point across easier than with just words, I believe. It is said that, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and I find that in this case, it is compellingly so. While the images are vitally important to the presentation, the words are almost equally so, for without these choice statements, the pictures would still touch the viewers hearts and souls, but they would not touch us in the same way.
The image of a soldier looking at a picture of (I am assuming to be) his child’s birth is the one that touched me the deepest. However without the words, “……to be forgiving when someone says how hard it is to have a new baby in the house,” the image would have only evoked a still sadness in my heart. Being a mother myself, my heart would naturally go out to the mother and child, having to face this huge event without the loving and supportive father there at their sides. With this choice text, I am reminded that this soldier, upon returning home, will carry this lasting feeling of missing such a huge event in his (and his family’s) life forever. It is yet another example of how we take our day-to-day life for granted.
This sentiment extends beyond soldiers returning home though. I am reminded of my own childhood by this. I can remember quite vividly complaining that I did not want to eat the carrots my mother had prepared. My mother would always respond with the same saying, “’there are starving children in China’, Cara-Noelle, so eat your carrots and be thankful!” Other children were told this same saying, “there are starving children in China,” when complaining about a food being served, I am certain. What it shows us is that we need to be more aware of what it is we are complaining about and to whom we are complaining. Even more so, that we need to be more aware of our surroundings, for we never know who the person two seats over on the bus is, or two cubicles over at work is, and where they come from and what their life experiences have been. By being more aware of these things and being more respectful and cautious with our words we are bound to hurt and offend far less frequently.
By each person heeding this advice, I am certain that the world would be a far less hateful place. Imagine the number of people that have hurt themselves or other people because they had been misunderstood by their peers. If everyone around them had been more mindful of what it is they were saying, perhaps these people would not have ended up the way they were. Now, I do realize that I have taken this sentiment to an almost Utopist ideal, and doing so is quite unrealistic. However, it is a nice thought to have. Taking this ideal back down to a more realistic expectation, would be doing what Crane has done, and putting this ideal towards one specific concentration: Soldier’s returning home from war.
These men and women, our soldiers, are off fighting for what ever reason we each choose to believe, but they are still off fighting; by choice, mind you. They have given up their personal freedoms and their own lives to fight for freedom. What they need from us is kindness, support, compassion and understanding. Giving them such simple things could alter how they assimilate back into our own cultures upon returning home.
Now all points of Crane’s position considered, I feel that her argument is completely effective and speaks for a large volume of our society. So many of us are silent, and she was brave enough to put it to words, and artistically so. The combination of imagery with words compels us to feel what Crane is feeling, which is empathy. I truly cannot imagine another emotion being elicited in a human being with this presentation. However, I am sure that it does elicit anger and fear in a large number of people, too. For what reason, I cannot be certain, because that was not the reason for which Crane thought to put this presentation together. The choice of pairing such emotional images with the text supplied is practically irony, as I stated before. I believe that the choice of doing so is what makes Crane’s argument so effective. By the image showing such a graphic scene, paired with complaints and statements that I am sure we have all made, at one point or another, makes them that much more powerful. It is the choice of words that makes the argument so much more real to the viewer, because it is the truth. Since we have all heard at least one of these complaints being said and complaining of another ourselves to someone, and pairing that complaint with the images that these soldiers have lived, makes us, the viewers, feel almost silly.
By making the viewers realize how trivial our complaints really are in the grand scheme of things, Crane accomplishes what she set out to accomplish - getting people to stop and think before they speak, to be more aware of their surroundings, to be more patient and understanding with others around us, specifically these soldiers returning home from war. This argument is not only powerful, but quite effective in proving the arguers point. It also goes to show that images and text are equally important, for one without the other is less than half effective.