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Coming Home:The War on the Inside
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Powerful words for many across this Country, and what they mean to Americans across the globe can vary, but the one thing that is true for most Veterans, and their families is that their Brothers, & Sisters in Arms didn't die in vain. That they died for a purpose greater than themselves. Most Americans in todays world, either know a soldier, have been a soldier, or came from ancestors that were a soldier. These special men and women, gave their blood, sweat and tears on the battlefield, and those of us back home had to learn to cope while our soldiers where deployed, in harmful situations.
The sad truth is, now that my own soldier has been home for several years, I realized that during the deployment, I kept myself busy, I tried not to watch the daily news reports of more tragedy, and I tried to involve myself with the other families that were in the same boat I was, but the thing I was most naive about was the idea that all the pain, all the sorrow would disappear once my soldier came home for good. These familes aren't properly armed with the tools they need when their soldier does come home. The war that goes on in their mind, the thoughts they try to hide from the rest of us, fester until they scrap their way to the surface and the longer they hold the intense images inside the more casualties there are on the home front.
Raising the American publics awareness is paramount in this type of matter. More than ever before Americans have been wonderful about thanking a soldier for what they are sacrificing for them and for the country, but is it enough when the soldiers families are suffering so profoundly. I say the answer is no!
Symptoms of Combat-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Reliving the Traumatic Event: these memories can be fully relived as if the soldier is back to boots on ground, the smells they experienced, what they heard, what they felt and they can come on without a pattern or a planned event triggering them. This can be especially difficult in life because you can't always plan your way around these issues. For my specific soldier: car backfiring, fireworks, seeing a car crash or a violent bloody event.
- Avoiding Daily Situations that may trigger an episode: this can be especially true for people as a warning sign that a person is crying out for help, in all forms of therapy, Avoidence means you are slowly unable to follow through with daily life rituals because of you problem.
- Numbness: Finding it difficult to suddenly communicate your feelings, being incapable of maintaining social relationships with others, no longer enjoying things that you used to, or being unable to discuss details of your traumatic event.
- Keyed-Up: Fidgety; always focusing on the dangers that are lurking around you;sudden outbursts of anger and aggression; trouble sleeping; difficulty concentrating on daily tasks; hyper-sensativity to startle response.
- Additional Problems: It's rare that anyone with PTSD has only one problem, typically when PTSD occurs in people it is a multi-layered issues with additional sets of problems. Most commonly alcoholism, and drug usage is the most common additional issue that soldiers battle as an avoidence technique to drown out the visions of combat, or in regular PTSD their attack; more people have extreme feelings of hopelessness, shame (especially after extreme anger outbursts), and despair. More and more soldiers are having issues with gainful employment when their combat syndrome is heightened, because of their inability to maintain social relationships, marriage, parent-child relationships, and employment issues follow.
Pieces of our men, and women are gone as they return and what you really find is the shell of a person that you once knew. Each and every deployment, more reality chips away at their psyche and the harder it becomes to transition back into a marriage and family life. I love seeing the miracle of families being reunited, but call me a cynic at this point. My own soldier came home in June 2006, he has served his country like that Hero and Honorable man he is. Everything about this former Marine/Army Sergent spells honor-right down to his Bronze Star with Valor from his last tour overseas Operation Enduring Freedom.
As Americans, Combat Related PTSD will continue to spread, like the infection that it is. You do see Veterans Affairs, and the branches of the military beginning to make strides to recognize the emergency that this country is facing if this continues to be ignored. As Americans we do have a voice, and we need to stand up and do more for this disorder that is affecting so many homes. Families should arm themselves with the facts and when they are thinking about signing on the dotted line, they need to consider the very real reality that deploying in today's world is a must, and that combat PTSD is a casualty of that sacrifice. Learning the facts and preparing your marriage, your home and your children for the soldiers return, and realizing that Combat Related PTSD can come on at any time and it's a lifetime change, NOT SOMETHING THAT GOES AWAY IN A COUPLE MONTHS!
For the Soldiers with Children: A soldier with PTSD affects everyone in the house, chidren begin to manifest the same type of symptoms as their Father/Mother of war. It might be the child things that in order to related to the distanced soldier they need to act the same way as them to forge a connection. In this case a child can show any or all of the same exact symptoms as their parent; in other cases the child may take on the responsibility of the parent and act more grown up than they are; and still other children develop severe emotional instibility issues which begin to manifest in theirperformence at school, and their relationships with others. For all these reasons it appears in press releases that these psycho-social issues found in children can continue clear up into adulthood and just as if it was a biological organism, children can get Combat PTSD from being continually traumatized by their parent.
The same can be said for what it does to spouses of a Combat Veteran, depression, anxiety, failure to maintain social relationships and go outdoors in many cases can occur when treatment isn't sought by the soldier.
Just because war has been a part of America since what seems like the beginning of time, PTSD didn't just come out of the blue, it's been a part of people's daily lives for as long as war has occured, the difference is at the effects of war to the growth of industry in America and the new stresses that each family of today's world has to encounter.
We are training our soldiers every-single day to kill, to fight, to save lives, and to improvise, adapt and overcome, do we really want them coming back and being incapable of facing their daliy lives while they wrestle on the brink of insanity from flashbacks of a war they never fully came back from? If you know a soldier, take a closer look, how many more Americans need to die by people that clearly had a problem and we as Americans never stopped to help a person by a kind word or making a phone call out of concern? It only takes a moment to stop what your doing in your life and take a rest from a busy schedule to realize that someone around you is in need of assistance.
I have heard other soldiers say that five minutes out of a fellow comrad in arms helped make the difference between putting a pistol in their mouth and pulling a trigger. This disorder is killing not only the soldiers, but everyone around them when this occurs. Where are the safeguards in place for families when this occurs, it hardly seems fair that the police is still the only protection for someone with these problems, being arrested when your a combat veteran crying for help from the VA hardly seems like a fair trade off for risking life and limb and mind.
It is appauling how many news beacons discuss the increasing violence nationwide among Combat-War Veterans and are looking down their nose at our Vets when they come back violent and aggressive. Its a totally mystery to me why so many Americans fail to realize that we are placing soldiers in high-level, high stress positions nationwide when they come back from deployments and look to point the finger and blame the soldier when they go rogue and hurt someone. If we as a nation stood up and forced our lawmakers to stragetize where Veterans are concerned these violence issues wouldn't be an issue. The treatment for Combat PTSD is lacking as if goes up the chain of command, we in many cases take a reactive stance when a soldier has a violent outburst but by then its too late, they have committed a criminal act and must then go through the Justice System, does it matter at that point that the Veteran was drugged up on several psychotropic meds when they kill everyone in their family? No because the VA and the branch of service cover the tracks and the lack of procedure that failed the family to begin with.
The last thought to keep in mind on this journey is that the voice of many is what carries and sustains not only our government, but our law making process. Taking a stand before it's your son or daughter, spouse, father or mother, or best friend. Doesn't matter who it is. The bottom line is it could save millions, just by arming yourself with the knowledge.
Please give me your thoughts, as I continue to strive for equality in the rights of the soldier and the military families that provide our freedoms. Don't forget to thank your loved ones and check back in for more articles for the military family.
God Bless the Soldier and their families!
Violence Epidemic in Soldiers: http://www.kget.com/news/local/story/Wave-of-violence-may-be-due-to-combat-PTSD/qehh7dZwjUOMbV9bM-seIQ.cspx
PTSD Overview by Veterans Affairs: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/fslist-ptsd-overview.asp
Children with Combat PTSD Parents: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/children-of-vets-adults-ptsd.asp
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