We met a few years ago at the church where he works, and where I volunteer. Of the thousands of people in the congregation, we are a handful of veterans.
The veterans I meet are few and far between, and we typically end up running in the same circles. How do you talk about morally reprehensible things that have left a bruise on your soul? Years ago, Andy fought in the siege of Fallujah. We never readjusted to normal life after deployment. Instead, we found ourselves angry, depressed, violent, and drinking a lot.
The guilt and moral tension many veterans feel is not necessarily post-traumatic stress disorder, but moral injury — the emotional shame and psychological damage soldiers incur when we have to do things that violate our sense of right and wrong. Shooting a woman or child.
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Killing another human. Watching a friend die. Laughing about situations that would normally disgust us. Because so few in America have served, those who have can no longer relate to their peers, friends, and family.
The U. We are entering our 15th year in Afghanistan, and we still station troops in some Iraqi outposts. In World War II, In Vietnam, 4. Since , only 0. Yet, during World War II, 10 million men were drafted, and over 2 million men were conscripted during Vietnam. Despite the length of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, there has been no draft, whereas in times past, shorter wars cost us millions of young men. The gap between citizens and soldiers is growing ever wider. Movie previews and radio shows gave updates on the war effort.
Because people are more concerned about enjoying their freedoms and going about their day to day lives, veterans can feel like outcasts. As though nothing we did mattered to a country that asked us to go. We could have stayed home. The counterpoint is that, because the U. Because we live in a democracy, we vote to put men and women in charge of governing our affairs, and those elected representatives send troops overseas.
The citizen at home may not have pulled the trigger, but they asked the soldier to go in their place. By shirking responsibility, civilians only alienate our soldiers more. On March 3, , 11 years after the end of the Vietnam War, Metallica released their critically acclaimed album Master of Puppets. The song won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. In an odd twist, both songs are amazingly popular among members of the United States military.
During my time at the John F. We sang songs about dying on behalf of the people or coming home a vegetable.
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As crazy as that sounds, we sang those songs because they felt true. And they felt true because of the conversation we refuse to have as a country. As Amy Amidon, a Navy psychologist, stated in an interview regarding moral injury :. The average American means well, but what they need to know is that these [military] men and women are seeing incredible evil, and coming home with that weighing on them and not knowing how to fit back into society.
Most of the time, like the conversation Andy and I had, people only want to hear the heroics. In order for our soldiers to heal, society needs to own up to its part in sending us to war.
Society needs to come alongside us rather than pointing us to the VA. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief - a daily roundup of military and defense news stories from around the globe.
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By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. The stigma of getting care also remains a major stumbling block for group members struggling with mental health issues. In the survey, 84 percent of veterans said they do not believe most veterans in the community are receiving the mental health care they need. But 75 percent of IAVA members said they are actively seeking that care, mostly from specialists at Veterans Affairs facilities.
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It's official. Our Member Survey is here! This year's survey reveals diverse opinions among Post veterans on war, firearms, suicide, immigration, Trump, equality, cannabis , and more.
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On a more positive note, the number of group members who have signed up for the Department of Veterans Affairs burn pit registry has increased steadily over the years, peaking at 47 percent in the latest survey. An overwhelming majority of the younger veterans — 83 percent — believe that cannabis should be legal for medicinal purposes. The issue is one of several hot-button topics in Congress to be influenced heavily by veterans policy, as lawmakers are looking to push VA officials to better study the value of the drug.
More than two-thirds of the veterans in the survey own a personal firearm, but 86 percent of the group favors universal background checks for individuals purchasing guns.