It seems easier to compartmentalize our lives into two distinct chapters—pre-war and post-war.
Pre-war, my husband and I were fast tracked young professionals, pursuing graduate and professional degrees, extremely active in the community, rich social life, and vibrant hobbies. When not working at prestigious internship or researching for our thesis, we could be found volunteering with an equine assisted therapy program, setting PR’s at destination races, and hosting soirees for our long list of friends.
Then war the happened.
My husband, who was then an officer in the Army National Guard, received a letter in the mail; a letter that would forever change our lives forever.
In three weeks time, my young armor officer was forced to leave graduate school and the internship he’d worked years to secure; short qualified officers, the Army National Guard had assigned him to a Route Clearance unit headed to Afghanistan.
That marked the end of life as we knew it.
War Comes Home
One year after hunting IEDs, suicide bombers, countless fire fights, 100+ combat missions, and my young armor officer returned home a very different person.
Being around any group of people would send him into a full blown panic attack.
Spotting any trash or debris on the road (like an IED), and he’d run the car off the road.
Seeing children play alongside the road would cause him to flashback to the dozens of Afghan children he witnessed killed by a suicide bomber as they were greeting American soldiers.
“Normal” things—like going to the grocery store, working out at the, gym, eating out with friends—were all now impossibilities.
He was no longer able to work in traditional office settings.
The former honor student failed out of school.
Our friends and family left, as they found my veteran's post-war behavior was “offensive” and “embarrassing”.
War Wounds Aren't Always Visible
We sat on the waiting list for a VA appointment for months.
When the appointment finally came around, we were deferred to a nurse practitioner who prescribed a 1960's era psychiatric drug with horrendous side effects. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) was noted through imaging diagnostics, but no treatment was prescribed. The nurse practitioner said he’d just, “have to live with the effects” including: debilitating headaches, hearing and vision loss, memory loss.
No follow-up appointment was granted.
My veteran’s confidence was shattered - a decorated combat veteran, no longer able to enjoy the pleasantries of “normal life” he’d fought so hard to protect, isolated from the people whose freedoms he’d promised to serve.
No one would hire him.
Schools wouldn’t accept him.
Just two short years after enjoying life as our “pre-war”, accomplished young professional selves, we were drowning in debt with no promising professional future.
War Creates Disconnect
War is hell, and as a society so far removed from the realities of war, Americans fail to recognize the massive effects of Global War of Terrorism on our brave men and women (and their families) who fight to protect our freedoms.
The “war” is not over when they leave theater.
For many veterans, the “war” will never be over—return to the ”pre-war” state is an impossibility.
During a particularly low point, my husband said, “The lucky ones come home in body bags, because at least for them, they don’t have to relive the war every single day and night of the rest of their lives; it’s over for them.”
War Costs All
There is a cost of war that extends well beyond our governmental expenditure for personnel, equipment, and weaponry; the effects of war continue to tax our veterans’ years following a peace treaty.
Life will never-ever-be the same.
Acknowledging the cost our heroes have paid to protect the freedoms we take for granted, is the first step in honoring our soldiers and their families. The cost of war isn’t pretty; it manifests itself in painful ways such as: flashbacks, paradigm shattering, substance addiction, relational challenges, etc.
Long after the war is "over", our service members continue to pay the price.
They fought for us, now it's time for us to fight for them.
Understanding the sacrifice our heroes continue to pay for their part in protecting our country is the first step to improving their lives. No veteran should ever be homeless, unemployed, hungry, or alone.
Throughout the month of November, we will be discussing challenges currently facing the millennial military population, such as: societal disconnect, financial struggles, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), TBI, suicide, and unemployment.
This series isn't "comfortable".
It won't make you feel "good".
That's okay; these topics NEED to be discussed so they can be addressed.
It's my hope that by sparking the conversation, we can help connect our communities with our veterans. Together, we CAN honor our veterans and their family members by providing EFFECTIVE solutions for very present challenges American Heroes are currently facing within our society.
Share the blogs, educate yourself on this heroic subset of our generation, and join in the conversation on Twitter, with the hashtag: #MilitaryGenY .
Next up - "Bridging the Civilian - Veteran Gap" & "PTSD: No More Stigma" .
About Hannah Becker
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