Though the numbers are not as enormous as in WW II or the height of the Vietnam War, we’ve had a substantial population of our young people exposed to the trauma of battle in foreign lands in the past twenty years. Some have not had to see combat, but many have, and when they return home every one of them needs special understanding and support from family and friends. And, I might add, our government needs to do more to help them find work, even in this terrible economy.
The young, who make up the majority of our brave service people, often enter into service with a bravado and idealism that can soon sour when confronted by the reality and horrors of war. While the human spirit is capable of processing a great deal more than we can imagine, a significantly high percentage of returning heroes have hidden, emotional wounds. Upon returning to civilian life, many of them cannot begin to process their experience of post-traumatic stress, so daunting is this challenge.
I’ll never forget my father’s pride at having fought in the Second World War. At least he felt as if he were liberating his extended family, who still lived in Italy. Yet Dad’s proud beaming quickly turned to tears when he recalled the heat of battle and the dying of fellow soldiers. His reaction remained the same even fifty years later.
War is the very definition of insanity. The director Roberto Rossellini’s film of post-war Berlin in 1948, Germany, Year Zero http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany,_Year_Zero addresses the lasting effects of the despair and trauma of war. Human beings have not changed. I think it’s safe to say that no matter what mood returning veterans may show to protect their families from worrying, most are harboring deeply difficult memories. Acknowledging this for all of us is the first and vitally important step toward a measure of healing.
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