Further Thoughts on Being a Veteran

At Mass this morning, the priest (an Army chaplain himself) asked all veterans to stand and be blessed. I looked around and saw young and old, male and female. I wondered what their stories are. Who served in combat? What stories do they have to tell?

I have spoken with veterans of every war from World War II to the present conflicts. Here are a few things they have taught me:

  1. A World War II veteran gave me the best definition I know of for PTSD. When I asked him about the daily nightmares he suffered, he said simply “I assumed it was the price men pay for going to war.”
  2. Another World War II taught me how important it is to talk about trauma. He had carried within him for 60 years the belief he was a coward for being afraid. When I managed to help him see the inaccuracy of that belief, he said simply “It never occurred to me that other men might be afraid.”
  3. A female Command Sergeant Major taught me the realities of sexual discrimination in the military as she shared without self-pity a long story of harassment she faced as she rose to the highest enlisted rank.
  4. I think of a Viet Nam veteran who told me horrific stories of being in combat but only started weeping when he spoke of being spit on by protestors upon his return home.
  5. I think of a man of faith who spoke sadly of finding the body of an Iraqi boy he’d befriended, murdered because the friendship made others suspect the boy was supplying information. I think of a Catholic man who believed his sins were beyond forgiving and that, because he had killed, he could not attend Mass.                                                                                                                                                                                        These and many other brother and sister veterans have taught me that, while some may need professional care, many simply want to tell their story without judgment. They have also helped me see that war is truly wrong, that war destroys in body, mind, and spirit.                                                                                                                                  So if you want to thank a veteran for his or her service, take the time to listen if they choose to honor you with their stories. Those stories will enrich you.                           As you watch the attached, please pray with me: “For God’s sake, bring them all home!”      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV7NYRimZec

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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4 Responses to Further Thoughts on Being a Veteran

  1. Michael Johnson says:

    Thank you again for sharing, as a Vet and the son of a career Vet who served in Korea and 10 years later in Viet Nam, the understanding and support our Vets recieve today would have brought my father to his knees in thanks as I do now, for him and who serve. Mj

  2. Susan Bass says:

    When one works with a group of Vietnam veterans with PTSD and some who are dually diagnosed, there are bound to be conflicts at times. When disagreements would become loud one group facilitator, also a Vietnam veteran, would simply stand up and say, “This is a Veteran’s House,” and that was absolutely enough to keep everyone’s anger in check. Everyone knew it was a sacred space.

  3. Michele says:

    Thank you for sharing your learnings from these other veterans and this beautiful video Rich. Yes war is wrong. Freedom is not free. There are huge costs. I just read the book “The Body Keeps the Score” and it gave me a deeper understanding of the hells of war and the trauma our soldiers endured. So painful. God bless them and their courage. I am so proud of you Rich for your service. I am so proud of my Dad, a Marine. Semper Fi

  4. richp45198 says:

    Reblogged this on Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD and commented:

    Another year and too many are still sacrificing life and limb. Bring ’em home!

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