Warriors Make Poor Victims
Asheville Citizen-Times Editorial - 80 - Troops – May 27, 2012
According to our enemy, we won the Vietnam war as least twice. Appeasement and time-out squandered those fleeting opportunities. Our allies subsequently lost their freedom. We swallowed failure and fifty-eight thousand American lives and cemented a pattern that finds us floundering in a new quagmire called Afghanistan. We’ll lose there too.
We should not confuse distractive meddling in other countries with the important business of defending America. Witness Bush’s trillion dollar debris trail in Iraq. Then glance toward a neglected border with Mexico through which we import people and pharmaceuticals and export dollars and guns. Fifteen-thousand of our neighbors die annually per America’s indifferent drug-abusers. Narco-terroism lurks over our own horizon.
Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other police actions did little more than reshuffle a corrupt deck. Sacrificing our young to Presidential interest in asserting a place in history marks our status as political mascots. Supporting our troops and military adventurism are contradictory actions.
War touches you deeply, but not in a Hollywood way. The extremes of super-soldiers doing the impossible and sadistically hotwired teenagers with machine guns have little to do with the real world. Combat environments are dirty, tiring, and numbing places where most dangers are episodic, abrupt, and brief. The residual impact, surprisingly, uplifts far more than it impairs.
PTSD is an abused diagnosis. Whereas there’s no question trauma has impact, permanence is optional. My profession shamefully provides a script of lasting casualty status for those hitting hard moments. Warriors aren’t engineered to be victims.
The best medicine for combat-induced PTSD is prevention. That begins with a strong military dedicated to the priority of protecting America, not vanity exercises in nation building.
When bad things do happen, for most, the antidote isn’t medication, hospitals, or lifetime disability. Anything that side-steps specific training in managing anxiety, worry, sadness, grief and other symptoms is a hook more than a help. In the end it comes down to finding new ways to live, contribute, and succeed. The best way to kill weeds is to choke them out with healthy grass.
A comparatively small percentage of combat troops come home as broken people. Most, like tempered metal, return stronger and better – a lifetime of contribution before them. Memorial Day is a reminder to remember the ones who didn’t come home. And to do a better job of saying “no” to those who would be reckless with the best of us...
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