ptsd

Our Veterans…the cream of the crop. The strong and the brave. Those ones, with courage to last for days. We really cannot say enough about our brave fighting mem and women, who are willing to give up time with family and friends, to go out and fight, sometimes giving their lives so that other people…often unknown to them can live free. There should be a day to honor them. How could we not have such a day? It would be unthinkable. And so, today, we honor them. Those who served and came home again…some to face disability, PTSD, and sadness over the ones who didn’t make it home. We honor them, because they did what we were unable to do. While we sit at home, hopefully praying for our fighting men and women, they bravely took to the battleground, in the air, on land, and sea. Yes, not all served in wartime, but at any moment, all of them knew that it could become wartime.

I can’t say what it is that makes a soldier, because each probably has their own reasons for enlisting, but before they become a soldier, each has to make a decision that they will serve their country and willingly go wherever they are told, often without having a say in the matter. Some assignments are great, taking the soldier and family to exotic places, but some are so dangerous that the soldier cannot take his/her family along because it would be unsafe for them. Still, dangerous or not, the soldier bravely goes, and tries to be a credit to his/her uniform.

I am very proud of our veterans. They have served this country proudly. They took orders when they knew it could mean they lose their lives. That is a rare thing these days, when civil unrest is the norm. Many people would never consider a life or even an enlistment period, because they don’t think they would be appreciated. They don’t want to risk coming home only to be vilified, when in reality, they are the heroes. Veterans Day is a day to celebrate the soldiers who faced it all, and came back home to their families. To all of you…thank you for your service, and Happy Veterans Day!!

War is an ugly business, and the men and women who fight in wars are subjected to great stress and anxiety. These days, most of us recognize the term, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We also recognize that a person doesn’t have to be in a war situation to have PTSD. Any traumatic event can trigger PTSD, and the symptoms of this disorder can be devastating. In fact, PTSD can result in things like suicide, attacks on others, institutionalization, or isolation.

During World War II, PTSD (then known as Shell Shock) first came to the attention of the military leaders. On October 4, 1944, General Dwight D Eisenhower distributed to his combat units a report by the US Surgeon General that revealed the hazards of prolonged exposure to combat. The then General’s report read, “[T]he danger of being killed or maimed imposes a strain so great that it causes men to break down. One look at the shrunken, apathetic faces of psychiatric patients…sobbing, trembling, referring shudderingly to ‘them shells’ and to buddies mutilated or dead, is enough to convince most observers of this fact.” General Eisenhower had been on the battlefield, and so, knew firsthand of the “attacks” on the minds and emotions of these poor soldiers.

After evaluation of many cases of “Shell Shock” in the hospital wards, the American commanders came to the conclusion that the average soldier could last about 200 days in combat before suffering serious psychiatric damage. They looked into the fact that British commanders used a rotation method, pulling soldiers out of combat every 12 days for a four-day rest period, thereby enabling British soldiers to put in 400 days of combat before being deleteriously affected. The Surgeon General’s report went on to lament the fact that a “wound or injury is regarded, not as a misfortune, but a blessing.” Now, when a wound is considered a blessing, you know that things have taken a serious turn for the worst in the area of morale. That basically means that the soldiers will do just about anything to get off the battlefield. For them, death isn’t far from being acceptable either. General Eisenhower and the military leaders of that era could see that the war was clearly taking a toll on more than just men’s bodies. The far greater toll was on their minds and emotions.

While I can see that the idea of a rotation, or a limited period of exposure to the battlefield could sound like a viable solution, in reality is is only a partial solution, and one that probably won’t really work. While the time spent on the battlefield can cause fatigue, both mentally and physically, it only takes one event to change the mental status of a person. Even a strong person is going to be effected by the horrific death of a comrade at the hands of a land mine. Yes, their own wounds would get them off the battlefield, but that will not take away the pictures of blood and death they have see on the battlefield. To take the soldiers off the battlefield after 200 days is a noble effort, but it is not likely to solve the problem of Shell Shock in the way that they had hoped. I guess that main thing is that they knew about it and were trying to fix it.

World War II took it’s toll on many people. The soldiers, families at home, and probably unknown to the people of the Allied nations…the German people. When we think of the Nazis, we think of an entire country so filled with hate for the Jewish people…as well as any nationality that was different that the Nazi white people. The reality is that while there were a relatively small number of Hitler’s puppets to actually embraced the thinking and the hatred of Hitler; there were also a great many of the German people who were not Nazis, nor did they agree with anything that Hitler did or believed. They were good and decent people, who valued life, and just wanted to work hard, and live their lives in peace and happiness.

These post-war German citizens were faced with a new and strange kind of post-war reality. The country suffered from collective PTSD. Said one German citizen, “We were a broken, defeated, extinguished people in 1045. 60 million human beings suffered from PTDS. And Knowing that not only did you lose…but also that you were on the wrong side. On the wrong side of morality, of humanity, of history. We were the bad guys. There was no pride. Just the knowledge that we were at rock bottom, and rightfully so.”

As American and Allies, it is hard for us to accept their feelings of remorse. I’m sure that the Jews, Gypsies, and other persecuted races had an even harder time feeling bad for the German people…at least, not unless they were some of the German citizens who escaped from Germany along with other refugees, or those who helped their Jewish or Gypsy counterparts to escape or to survive. One of those sympathizers who lived, warned his children and grandchildren, saying, “Don’t forget, but don’t tell anyone about this.” He was so ashamed and so angry, still, 40, 50 years later. He said that the Nazis had taken the best years of his life, saying, “We must look out for them, it can happen again. Beware, pay attention to politics! Speak up! We couldn’t stop them, maybe you can, next time.” The man hammered these things into his grandchild’s brain, over and over and over. He knew the dangers of complacency where politics is concerned. He knew that if they take your guns you are helpless. He knew that if evil people get in office, the danger grows exponentially. He had seen it…first hand. It is a lesson many people today need to learn. It could happen again, if we aren’t vigilant.

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