Sunday, April 30, 2017

Civilians Guide to Understanding Veterans

Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
April 30, 2017

There is now, and always has been, a huge disconnect between the civilian world and the military. All too often a civilian friend will complain about how I focus on Combat PTSD but hardly ever mention what civilians are going through.

The thing is, they miss the fact that had it not been for Vietnam veterans coming home and fighting for the research, there would be nothing available for civilians. Everything civilians benefit from, with mental health professionals, crisis intervention, medication and therapy, is there because of them.

Now we know that civilians can get hit once by a traumatic event, changing their lives but they do no seem too interested in the fact that service members face them willingly for a living.

Groups hit by PTSD because of their professions are misunderstood by the public, but they understand one another better. Police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, and even those who take care of them, are more understood than ever before because of what Vietnam veterans did. 

We turned our backs on them when they came home. They turned around and fought for each other, then changed the world. Every other generation came home with the same wounds of war but little was done to treat them.

My husband's uncle was on a ship during WWII. It sunk and when the survivors were pulled from the ocean, he was given a choice of spending the rest of his life in a mental hospital or living on a farm, he picked the farm. That was all they had when the term to describe this wound was called "shell shock."

There were a lot of movies about this going back to the end of WWII. Most of the time the scripts were written by those with a personal connection to this world or based on accounts from those who fought the battles. Hollywood has tried and tried again to show that war does not leave those who survive it.

The movie about Chris Kyle did more to educate the American public about combat PTSD than any other flick.
Civilian friends were coming over to me and saying they finally understood what I dedicated my life's work to. Actually, they didn't know it came with me since I was an Army daughter and then an Army wife. I am part of the huge military family because of what others did for this country. I am still a civilian because I paid no price personally.

The fact is, with all the talk in the civilian world about how some folks are "raising awareness" on veterans killing themselves after the enemy didn't manage to, the civilian world knows hardly nothing about any of this. How can you? How can you when all you hear is a number instead of knowing their names? How can you know anything if all you read is an arbitrary obituary count?

Veteran families are connected to each other but you are our neighbors. We live and work right next to you everyday yet few bother to ask a single question. Most of the people I work with know what I do and some know why I do it, yet instead of asking me before they donate or share the posts of these stunt pullers using the number "22" or "20" they feel as if they are offering support because they care. When they do ask what I think, they change their minds on what they will support charity wise because they do in fact appreciate those who paid the price for the freedoms they enjoy.

If you know a veteran, talk to them. Show an interest and learn from them what they need. It isn't enough to show up at parades or shoot off fireworks on the 4th of July.

If you read about problems with the VA, know that your politician has more to do with the problems because they have jurisdiction over it. They have failed to deliver the best care possible since the Revolutionary War. Educate yourself and then demand accountability from them and then demand an apology for failing these men and woman putting their lives on the line for your sake.

Our families are a small percentage of the population with less than 10% having served and less than 1% serving today. We are proud of our veterans and gain strength from each other but we need the support of the public based on facts and not some feel good story they read in the newspaper that leaves us feeling like we just don't matter enough.

Our veterans are dying and the truth is, most of the ones taking their own lives survived combat decades ago. They just couldn't survive being left to carry the burden of everyone else's freedom while they were left trapped behind the wall of pain.

Today is the escort for the Traveling Vietnam War Memorial into Wickham Park. It is the 30th Anniversary of the reunion. If you go or line the streets, know that these are the men and women who didn't just pay the price during a war you heard about on the news. They pay the price everyday.