Growing up in the Midwest, Indiana to be exact, you do not see a whole lot of what would be considered violence. There are the exceptions, though, every little-to-mid size city has one: a ghetto, but let’s be honest. Street violence is not the same thing as war.
Yeah the people in these ghetto’s say they’re in a war, but what do they know about war? They think that just because there is gun violence it is war. It’s not! War is something soldiers train for. Soldiers being people that joined a standing military force with the power and trust of a government behind them. Living in a ghetto, or a place where there is looting, rioting, and violence is not War. That is an inconvenient set of circumstances. However, I will not belittle their PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – it is very real to have PTSD from violence, but it is a different type of emotional trauma then what a military person goes through.
WAR is hell! It starts with someone getting killed and it ends with someone being killed, and a lot of death in between. Life is a precious commodity, but they don’t teach that in the military. The sanctity of life is kept only for those that they deem are worthy. The people that are deemed worthy in the military are the people on your left and your right. The person that is down the sights do not matter. #OneShotOneKill is the mantra for the United States Army Infantry. This not only takes one person out of the fight, but it saves on lead being slung downrange as well. Raising a weapon at someone, there better be someone dead at the other end of that aimed weapon.
Which later down the road will cause #stress. People do not realize the level of stress that comes into #combat.
PTSD used to be called shell shock, or it was called battle fatigue. While these labels are still very true to this day. There is something more to it than that. PTSD is in almost every combat soldier, one way or another it will resurface to the top one way or the other. It will manifest itself in dreams, in shock from loud noises, angry outbursts, and so many other different ways. A combat soldier, sailor, marine, or airmen can tell you that it is not a fun thing to deal with.
When a non-veteran looks at a Veteran the first thing that generally is said, or thought of is: “Thank you for serving.” This is much appreciated by the Veterans; however, I can tell you from experience that these people and even myself are at a loss of words sometimes because what can the Vet say. “Ummm… You’re most welcome.” or “Thanks…” It is trivial, but a lot of us (Veterans) will just nod and continue on our/their way. It isn’t because we are ungrateful, it is because we joined to serve, not to be recognized. Granted there are the occasional Veterans that did join just so they could get the honor and prestige that goes along with the uniforms, but they are few and far between!
Combat Veteran’s think about things like their friends that they lost. ‘Say thanks to them.’ ‘ Don’t need to say thanks to us. Say thanks to my friends.’ And, ‘I didn’t join to be thanked. I joined to make a difference.’ Combat Veteran’s are a different breed of people all together. A Combat Veteran doesn’t want to tell stories about his time overseas, unless, he wants to. Watch who that Combat Veteran is sitting with – is he sitting with his old buddies, or is he sitting with someone that was overseas with him, or another tour? You will see that most Vet’s do not talk about their service to people just because. There is a reason behind every story. There is a reason behind every thought that comes out of a combat vet’s mouth when it is talking about their service to this country.
Stress is very real. It is very dangerous for a Veteran to hold it in. Listening to a Veteran tell his/her story of being in combat or a mortar attack, even an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack can be humbling; however, it can be very hard for said Veteran to speak about. Veterans generally demand more from themselves than anyone could ever expect, so getting caught in a situation that there really is no training for and people dying is hard. Granted there is simulated mortar fire and “God Guns,” but that is the extent of it. You don’t understand what it means to have big pieces of shrapnel raining down on you for the sake of the enemy trying to kill you and your friends. This is combat. People die. Soldiers die. The enemy is then hunted down and killed. Stress becomes a burden that is not taken off of a soldiers back. It is not easily off-loaded; especially, if the person makes it home and has a mandated VA social worker asking a bunch of questions. Here is the majority answer: “I’M FINE!!!” And the VA has to take that answer, they cannot force the Veteran to open up. Nor should they…
Stress can be very harsh on the soldiers after a deployment. The deployment is a lot of times, just thinking about it, can be very harsh. Bad leadership to the highest level, low morale, and extensive missions that have meaningless (to the soldier) consequences, told that this mission is a part of the bigger picture, but it doesn’t matter – it gets under the skin of the soldiers after awhile. Every soldier, sailor, marine, and airmen wants to make a difference, but without being able to see the result of their hard work it causes stress. Therefore, when a soldier becomes a Veteran when productivity is not being seen the Veteran will be more stressed.
Stress is very hard to handle for anybody, take into consideration now what a Veteran has to handle with not being able to see the fruits of his/her labor. Take into account a stress filled room without knowing why you feel stressed, an employer asking for deadlines that are almost impossible for the normal person, but the Veteran takes that task to heart and puts it on themselves to make that task a reality.
Let’s get down to the heart of the matter, though, PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder. What causes this? Any type of trauma can cause stress disorders. Combat stress is very real, it takes what’s inside of you and throws kinks in your everyday life. It makes one say that they are alright, but they are really not. Causes people to think that they cannot handle everyday life, all the while putting on a false smile and an “I am okay.” Combat stress creeps into everyday life, into the way a combat veteran feels – no more fireworks, no more sitting with the back to the door, and definitely no more feeling normal in everyday situations.
The next time you talk to a Veteran, that may or may not have PTSD, remember that they are dealing with things normal civilians can never comprehend. That they have gone to hell and back, and they would most likely do it again, so that people can feel safe. Just remember that PTSD is very real. Don’t ask them if they are okay because they are. Ask them if there is something that you can help with. And actually do it. Don’t just sit back and nod when they open to you. They are opening up for a reason. Listen to them, help them if they can. Let’s listen. Let’s not lose another Veteran to their inner wars, their demons (if you will). Veterans that struggle with PTSD are the same people they were before they went into combat, they are the same people that you grew up with and most likely they have the same sense of humor, but they are different inside because they can never go back the life they had before. It changes a person, and not necessarily for the better.