Memorial Day is set aside so that once a year we may honor those who died serving their country. National cemeteries will be filled with loved ones mourning over the losses inflicted by combat. Let us also take the time, though, to remember the casualties and deaths to mind and spirit.
I deal every day with men and women whose spirits have been killed by combat. Some spend tortured nights reliving the horrors of war. Others cannot forgive themselves for what they have done. Still others cannot turn off the adrenaline that comes with danger and so lash out at friends, family, or the guy in the next car. They grieve for the man or woman they were before going off to war. Far too many try to blot out the past with alcohol. These are some of the invisible casualties of war.
Moreso, there are far too many men and women who can no longer bear the pain of what they have seen and done and so choose to end their lives. The frequency of suicide among active duty military and veterans is a scandal that, in our day-to-day worlds, we don’t like to hear about. And yet it continues and is getting worse. Some of these casualties of war reached out the government agencies for help only to be overlooked or given psychiatric appointments in six months.
These victims of suicide are as much casualties of war as those who fall on the battle field. For their spirits were killed in combat. The wounds may not be as visible but they are just as deadly.
In the following scene from the film Going Home, we see two men. One tries to face his own traumas. The other chooses to end his life because he wasn’t a hero. Both are examples of the casualties of war we are discussing:
Plato once said “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” So it seems in our war-infested planet. So it is appropriate to pause and honor those killed in war. And it is appropriate to broaden our definition of combat casualties to include those deaths of mind and spirit.
To my brother and sister veterans who have died in body, mind, or spirit, I salute you
Reflection: 1. Do you have or have you had a connection with a fallen warrior? What are you own reflections on war and the casualties of war?