Memorial Day: Sad Lessons

Day 38

usa flagIn the United States we celebrate Memorial Day to remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces. It’s the time to visit cemeteries with flags and flowers. It’s the time to attend parades and celebrations.

I often think about the men and women who did not die in the war but took their lives after they returned home. The veterans who couldn’t deal with the trauma of what they experienced. Those who couldn’t turn off the sights, sounds, and terror of the night. They returned in a wounded state and were unable to function. Are they considered heroes as well? Are they celebrated and memorialized or is there a stigma attached to their death? It’s clear they weren’t killed by an enemy bullet but the enemy did have a part in their death.

The suicide rate for returning veterans is over 10 times higher than the general public. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not track suicide trends among veterans of specific military units. And some units do not track suicides of former service members at all. I’ve read that over 100,000 returning Vietnam vets have committed suicide. And now the younger men and women are following in their shoes. I’ve learned that we all have a story. This one needs to change.

~~~~~~~~
Day 37

I’ve learned to say Yes more often. To accept leadership roles, to hike a steep mountain, to visit large cities and small shops. I learned that I can say YES and if life gets too overwhelming to say, ENOUGH for now. I’ve learned by saying Yes, I am inviting an entire new set of circumstances into my life. New people, ideas, books, articles, opinions, tastes and vistas.

Arms out wide shouting YES!Saying Yes is scary too. It forces me to show up when I’d rather lie low. It makes me take deep breaths and look around with fresh eyes. Yes gets me in the door and then I can decide how long to stay.

Yes forces me to move whether I am ready or not. I said Yes at an early age to marriage, to motherhood, to uprooting and moving across the country, to returning to college to get my degree, to working as a waitress while I worked on my degree, to living life in a way that could only happen then. Without saying Yes, I would have missed out on meeting so many people who are now friends. At each workplace, I met someone new and wonderful. I learned from amazing bosses and bad administrators. I took chances and had friends in place to catch me when I fell.

I like going to the edge of my comfort zone and just sitting there for a bit until the discomfort fades away. The fear slowly subsides while I’m interacting with my environment – visiting the sites, meeting people, starting conversations, and staying engaged.

When I find myself in a rut, I start finding reasons to say Yes again. Yes to joining organizations, Yes to cleaning out my garage, Yes to asking for help, Yes to reading a new author, Yes to listening to new musicians, Yes to relocating, Yes to a trip — HECK yeah!

Then, in the quiet hours I reviewed the things that I said Yes to and get scared again. Why did I say Yes to that and that and that and that? What was I thinking? And yet, I learned something new, enjoyed a new band, walked a new trail, made a new friend. I know there are times to say NO and I will when the time comes. I promise I will but for now I realized I have more fun when I say Yes. I get more done and feel more satisfied at the end of the day.

For now, Yes is my friend and teacher.

~~~~~~~~~~

Day 36

I learned (once again) how much I love walking in the morning. I love the way the light shines on flowers and how clean the air smells. I try to take my camera with me in case there is something I want to capture. My tulips and flowers morning walk1favorite things include landscapes and colorful flowers. I wish I could capture the smell as well – that fresh early morning dewy smell.

 

Memorial Day Should be OUTLAWED

I wrote this in May 2010 and decided to share it with you again:

Instead, Every Day the American public should express thanks to our veterans and soldiers.  If we were more caring and appreciative on a daily basis instead of squeezing our thanks in between a cold beer and a softball game, NASCAR race or Bolder Boulder on our day off, then perhaps veterans would be more honest with us about their experience and the stress they are dealing with each day.

Looking for my brother's name on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall
Looking for my brother’s name on the Viet Nam Memorial Wall

What is it that is capturing their souls and leading our soldiers to commit suicide in record numbers? In the past five years the suicide rate among soldiers was the highest since 1980 when they were first recorded.

Military suicides make up 20% of all suicides in the US.  And for every death, five members of the armed forces tried to take their lives and were hospitalized instead.

The government is trying to stem this human exodus and is deploying mental health experts to work with the returning soldiers and their families.  In the beginning, when a soldier was deployed, he or she had the support of family back home. However, as the deployments were extended and increased, the support back home began to have their own mental health issues.

For the families left behind dealing with their own anxieties, running the household, making ends meet, parenting their children, holding down a job and fearing for the safety of their loved one, they may not have the strength to offer the support and hope to their spouse that they once had. They may be seeking mental health help for themselves, taking meds and antidepressants and trying to get support for their children.

In addition to being away from home, fighting a war that doesn’t end, with no actual date of return … these soldiers are learning about the stress they’ve put their family under. So to help out, they share less. They communicate less. They take the burden off the family back home as a way to protect them and hold it all inside.

And when they return home – they are wounded. Some are wounded on the outside, others on the inside and many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder is commonly found in people who have lived through a traumatic event that caused them fear, stress and a sense of helplessness.

How do we express our thanks besides waving a flag? How do we offer help?

I sure would like to know.

Memorial Day Should be Outlawed

This is a repost from May 30, 2010:

Instead, Every Day the American public should express thanks to our veterans and soldiers.  If we were more caring and appreciative on a daily basis instead of squeezing our thanks in between a cold beer and a softball game, NASCAR race or Bolder Boulder on our day off, then perhaps veterans would be more honest with us about their experience and the stress they are dealing with each day.

Viet Nam Memorial WallWhat is it that is capturing their souls and leading our soldiers to commit suicide in record numbers? In the past five years the suicide rate among soldiers was the highest since 1980 when they were first recorded.

Military suicides make up 20% of all suicides in the US.  And for every death, five members of the armed forces tried to take their lives and were hospitalized instead.

http://www.caivn.org/article/2010/05/12/us-military-besieged-record-suicide-rate

The government is trying to stem this human exodus and is deploying mental health experts to work with the returning soldiers and their families.  In the beginning, when a soldier was deployed, he or she had the support of family back home. However, as the deployments were extended and increased, the support back home began to have their own mental health issues.

For the families left behind dealing with their own anxieties, running the household, making ends meet, parenting their children, holding down a job and fearing for the safety of their loved one, they may not have the strength to offer the support and hope to their spouse that they once had. They may be seeking mental health help for themselves, taking meds and antidepressants and trying to get support for their children.

In addition to being away from home, fighting a war that doesn’t end, with no actual date of return … these soldiers are learning about the stress they’ve put their family under. So to help out, they share less. They communicate less. They take the burden off the family back home as a way to protect them and hold it all inside.

And when they return home – they are wounded. Some are wounded on the outside, others on the inside and many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder is commonly found in people who have lived through a traumatic event that caused them fear, stress and a sense of helplessness. They live in a cycle of despair. And for those who are killed in action? What sort of grief counseling is available? Their biggest fears have unfolded and besides their family circle, they are alone.

In Canada, according to my blogging friend Rebekah, there is a stretch of highway from Trenton, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario called the Highway of Heroes.

Highway of Heroes in Canada
http://www.thankasoldier.net/highway.html

This route is used to transport the bodies of soldiers and where citizens line the road to pay their last  respects. This Highway of Heroes is a public statement that shouts ” Thank You”  for all you’ve done.

It is a fitting tribute for the family and a good way for the community to join together to show support and appreciation.

I’d rather not have any more deployed soldiers, stressed out families, military suicides or war.  Until that changes, let’s find the support for these families and not leave them in pain.

Memorial Day Awakening

Memorial Day
Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

Growing up I remember sitting in front of the television, watching Fred Hilligues tell us about another offensive, another wave of soldiers who died in Viet Nam. In those days, we all watched the news. We all knew where our brothers and neighbors and cousins were deployed. We all prayed. We all believe in our government.

That gradually changed.

Our boys did not come home.

The government did not welcome them, receive them or recognize them.

We started counting the dead.

Parents stopped believing in their government and their children followed suit.

We stopped praying.

We understood the war was a political event and our dead were the price we paid.

Today, when a solider dies, they are called “Troops”. Six US troops died today. A troop is an elusive entity. In reality, six young men died today. The government had to find a way to make the public forget that the dead were our boys and girls.

Over 51,000 soldiers died in Viet Nam.
The causality count in Iraq since 2003 is more than 100,000.

I believe we must honor those who have died for our country AND I believe we must question why any more of our young are sent into battle.

Viet Nam Veterans Memorial–  www.vvmf.org