August 20, 2016
We can count the number of those missing in action but we will never know the number of those missing from tables all over the country because of it.
There are obvious numbers and then there are numbers we will never know. When someone is dies serving this nation, their death is counted as a price of war. When someone dies because of combat, all too often, only those they left behind know about that other price of service.
When someone is bodily wounded, they receive a Purple Heart and their wound is counted as yet another price paid by those willing to risk their lives for this nation. When someone is wounded within their bodies, they are the only ones knowing war never left them unless they stop suffering in silence.
Some will seek healing. Some will seek an end to the suffering by ending their own lives. If you are one of them please reconsider leaving behind an empty chair.
If you think you are making your family miserable, you are probably right. If you think leaving them behind because you do not want to burden them, you are definitely wrong. Leaving them will break their hearts and they will never find the answers as to what they could have done differently. The biggest question in their minds will be wondering why you decided to leave instead of healing.
If you think that leaving them will make their lives better then you better start to think of how you can make their lives better with you in it.
Think about it this way. In the military, there were those you counted on to make it from one day to another. They counted on you as well. Your family and friends are counting on you now for their tomorrows. Why don't you know how much they care about you and how hard they will fight for you if you let them?
When you were in combat, you did whatever it took to stay alive and keep as many of those you were with to make it back home. Why should this be any different? We know that too many just like you gave up because they did not find the help they needed to heal. Maybe they did not even know they could. How many do you think you could help if you let them know that?
There are weapons you trained to use in combat and there are weapons you can train to use in this battle to save their lives but you have to learn how to save your own first.
Knowledge to live with it:
PTSD is a wound caused by what you survived. You are not a victim. You survived it. Do not settle for what comes afterwards as being harder to get through that "it" was. You fought with everything you had in combat, so fight to get whatever you need now. You would not need help healing PTSD if you did not serve.
If you survived multiple deployments then understand the risk of developing PTSD went up 50% each time you went into combat. The odds were stacked against you. This was known back in 2006 and a lot of you have figured that out but some have no clue.
"I left the war zone but the war zone never left me." Nicholas Johnson
More than 730,000 went as members of the reserves or National Guard, forcing them to place their civilian lives on hold for as long as a year, sometimes more than once. It was the largest use of both forces since World War II, greater even than during the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Troops “don’t need to be classified as wounded in action to have been wounded. A lot of us got hurt. Some more serious than others, but a lot of us sacrificed part of our bodies out there.”Adam Schiele
The place where PTSD lives is in the part of your brain holding your emotions. It is not fully developed until the age of 25, yet by then you probably experienced more than most will in a lifetime. Go once, and yes, PTSD can hit you. It happened to about one out of three Vietnam veterans after just one deployment. Go over and over again and it becomes engrained in your mind so living back home afterwards is not easy. It is not impossible!
The best way to "fit back in" is to fit back in with the right groups. Try to fit in with civilians your age more interested in hunting down Pokemon than what you had to do hunting down the enemy and you get blank faces. Service is a part of you, so you fit in with other veterans. Don't stay lonely when you can feel like family again.
How do you expect people to understand you when you've had a hard time understanding yourself? They understand it all too well and they are still surviving because they found the support they needed to heal.
A POW is captured by the enemy. You have been captured by PTSD. It is an enemy, so fight it.
A POW is tortured by the enemy. You are being tortured by PTSD. Do not just endure it until it stops and lets you get some rest. Defeat it so you can live a better life.
A POW is controlled by the enemy. You are being controlled by PTSD. Take back control over your own life and heal.
Knowing what PTSD is and the simple fact that it can only strike after surviving something like you did, means you did not cause it. Your service did.
You are not mentally weak like the military made you think you were. When they told you that you could train to be mentally tough, that made you think PTSD meant you were weak. The truth is, you have an emotionally strong core and that is why you felt it all more than others. It wasn't just about your own pain but the pain of others that you carry within you.
If you grieve, you do because you loved. Evil people do not grieve and they are not willing to die to save someone else.
You are not trapped the way you are today but can change again. That is what PTSD is. It changed you and you can change what it is doing to you. You can change what you are doing to others and start doing for others again.
After all, isn't that why you joined the military in the first place? That came from the love you have to give. Love them enough to live.