We have failed our heroes

Today is Memorial, or Decoration Day, a day of pause begun decades ago for decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers.

The long weekend is now dominated by stores holding big sales, high school graduations, blockbuster movie openings, and the unofficial beginning of summer. 

Today media outlets will provide us with beautiful photos of thousands of small flags doting the graves of the heroes buried in Arlington. The President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown and make some remarks. Local television will update viewers on local ceremonies at 6:00 and 11:00 tonight. 

Before the day ends, our country will have 22 more veterans to mourn, soldiers whose lives where cut short due to their willingness to serve in our armed forces. 

The United States spends billions on waging wars with no exit strategies. Our fighting forces are built on the backs of the poor, officers who tolerate sexual assault and intimidation, and military families who can’t afford to feed their children without food stamps. 

Even worse, when our soldiers return, we fail to provide them with the services they need and deserve. 

Our failure as a country is why 22 veterans will kill themselves before Memorial Day comes to an end. Twenty-two brave volunteers who came forward, and survived, will reach their breaking point today and succeed in ending their pain and agony. Twenty-two families, made up of parents, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, will begin preparations to bury their soldier.

Because there are war injuries we can’t see with our eyes, we fail to see them with our hearts.

It isn’t PTSD

A few weeks ago I heard radio newsman Bob Edwards interview a British World War II widow who wrote a book about her husband and his war experiences. Her book includes how he, and therefore their family, were impacted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She made an interesting point when Edwards asked her husband’s PTSD. She proposed that soldiers who have PTSD not be described that way. PTSD can result from any number of injuries or traumas not related to war. Instead, she suggested that soldiers and veterans with PTSD, be more appropriately described as having a war injury.

She put forth that PTSD should be referred to as a war injury because describing it that way is accurate (the injury is the result of war). A war injury has fewer stigmas than mental illness, perhaps making a soldier less reluctant to recognize their injury and seek proper treatment.

I think that is a brilliant and accurate way to describe one of war’s darkest offenses to a soldier.

This Memorial Day, if only for a little while, we should set aside all the sales and the unofficial launch of summer. Let’s remember the soldiers, at least 22 of them everyday, who decide suicide is the only way to stop the war injury that has followed them from the battlefield from replaying itself over and over again.

And then let’s all work towards more and greater peace.

update: The woman interviewed by Bob Edwards was Patti Lomax. The movie
The Railway Man is based on her husband’s experiences. http://www.voanews.com/content/for-veterans-with-pts-battle-is-just-beginning-/1913544.html