I am a talker. I am not a very good listener. I have truly tried to improve my listening skills over the years, but I know I still need improvement. Chaz tells me I have gotten a lot better. Do you know what made me a better listener? My husband's military career.
The other day we found a picture of us when we first started dating in 1999. It seems like it was only yesterday. I looked at those young faces and realized that Chaz and I have been through so much in our years together. We have healed together through Kosovo, 9/11, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. How are we still sane? We talk through our problems.
Healing a service member wounded by war is incredibly hard. Just like real war you have no notice of when the battles will start. You have to always be on your toes and some days you just want to hide and wait for it to pass over. When healing a warrior you can't hide, you have to put your big girl panties on and get into the suck.
When Chaz came home from Iraq, he was angry. I knew the instant I saw him he was different. I knew war had changed him. The night he returned we stayed up and talked all night long. He was so mad about so many things that had happened over there. He needed me to just let him get it all out. Chaz really didn't get it all out until I read the book about his deployment to Iraq. That book (Black Hearts by Jim Frederick) gave me so many more additional conversation starters. Thanks to Jim's book, I was able to get my hubby to really open up. I know way more about war then I ever wanted to know. The other day at the VA we had to rehash some of that knowledge and it sucks. I want to put all of that in the book and put on the shelf as a reminder of another battle we won together. I don't like talking about Iraq. It flat out pisses me off. Read the book, you'll understand why.
No matter how angry I get about Iraq and what Chaz has been through I have to remember to get it all out. I have to allow myself to get angry. I have to talk about it. I have to be ready to listen to my hubby when he talks about his deployments. I have to help him get it out. I have to remember to let my girls talk to me about their fears. They have seen Daddy get angry. They have seen me help him calm down. Then we have talked about it.
We don't hide our post traumatic stress. We put it out on the table. We are real with our girls. We are real on their level. We help them understand what is going on. We talk about our anger. We talk about their fears.Why? Because they sometimes they are scared and angry too. We talk about it so we can help them heal. We are honest with our girls, because we want them to be honest with us.
I now have to ask our nation why are we not talking about post traumatic stress and our veterans? It seems that we can talk about everything in our country but mental illness. The other day the VA released the updated numbers. We are losing 1 active duty service member and 22 veterans every day to suicide. That's 23 heroes per day or 8395 per year. Did you see that on the news? I didn't. And I only found the story on a few online media sources. You know why that makes me so angry? The people who serve our country deserve better. The have served and protected us and we can't even talk about how to help them? No, instead we include PTSD in a story line on a TV show or lifetime movie and scare the crap out of people.
Here's more news for you very few of our veterans are violent towards others, but it will be that minority that will stick in your memory. The updated numbers from the VA proved that our veterans are more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others. I believe every service member who has deployed has some degree of post traumatic stress. I'll even argue every family member of a service member who has deployed has secondary post traumatic stress. Guess what, less than 1% of our nation serves our country. Should you be scared of them? Heck no! They are freaking amazing.
Take a second and think about leaving your home to be stuck somewhere that is like nothing you have ever seen. Then think about being shot at by people you don't know. Oh and those people left bombs in the ground to get you that way too. Then think about bonding with people only to watch them suffer and bleed in front of you thanks to those bullets and bombs. You spend months of your life in this situation. Not just once, but multiple times. You finally get to go home to a family that has changed and kept on moving. Your own kids don't recognize you. Your wife doesn't understand you. If you were hurt, the people who are supposed to help you transition make you feel broken and worthless and now you question was your service worth it. The news is tired of your story so they just stop talking about what you and your brothers and sisters in arms have done. You reach out for support, but you have to wait months for an appointment to be seen and you don't know what else to do.
This is the short version of a story shared by many of our veterans. I have seen what the VA is trying to do. They are really trying to help our veterans. Yes this is the VA's problem, but it's also the American people's problem. These men and women served for us. They sacrificed for us. We owe it to them to start talking. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a nation to heal a service member wounded by war. I plead with you to start the conversation. I do not have the answers on how to solve this problem, but I can tell you ignoring it is definitely not going to make it go away.