I am not a combat veteran, a fact that I communicate to the many combat veterans I see through my work. However, as one vet reminded me before giving me a hug, I am a veteran and so I am a brother.
For many veterans, this is a very difficult weekend where memories they don’t like to recall crowd in. Friends killed before their eyes. Dying children. Word of another vet committing suicide.
My many hours with these heroic men and women have convinced me of the evils of war. There has got to be a better way to settle our differences yet I fear that Plato was right when he wrote “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
I deal with men and women whose minds and spirits have been battered by war. I have dealt with some who considered ending their lives or even attempted it. Without exception, all considered this step only because they were weary from the pain. Images of body parts of buddies. Smells of explosives and blood. Sounds of taps heard too many times. A loss of faith.
Did you know that the statistic for veterans who commit suicide remains at over 20 EACH DAY?? Yet wars go on, VA mental health clinics are overwhelmed, and too many cries for help go unheard. I do indeed honor our heroes who sacrificed their lives in combat. But I also honor the many men and women who ended their own lives, having grown tired from the weight of war.
So if you know a troubled vet, reach out to him or her. Listen. Many combat vets simply want to tell their stories without facing judgment, especially the Viet Nam veterans wounded not just by war but by spit and shouts of “Baby killer!” upon their returns to home. Don’t simply tell a vet “Thank you for your service.” Ask him or her “How are you doing?” with interest and attention.
I hate war and what it has done to too many beautiful people. But I am also a brother who salutes his fellow brothers and sisters and who honors the memory of other brothers and sisters whose lives ended because of war.
I share this great Trace Adkins song in their memory.