Today is Memorial Day in the United States. This is a day Americans celebrate members of the military past and present, especially those who sacrificed their lives in such military service.
But after all the ceremonies, parades, and other events honoring veterans and service members, many people don’t think about vets, soldiers, sailors, and other service members any more. They seem to take the attitude of out of sight, out of mind.
Of course, just because people don’t think of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. This is especially true with veterans. Many struggle every day with problems related to their military service. Many use alcohol and drugs to deal with these problems, which can create even more problems.
Postmilitary problems are nothing new. After every war and military engagement, there have been veterans who have returned home without limbs, crippled, blind, or carrying shrapnel or other injuries. Other injuries are harder to see, but perhaps even more damaging.
These injuries are to veterans’ brains and spirits. General George Patton famously hit a soldier dealing with the emotional effects of combat. Could this soldier have been experiencing shell shock, a condition in which veterans struggle with the emotional and mental aspects of what they experienced in combat?
Although I’m not an expert on such matters, it sounds as if shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are very similar. People with PTSD have difficulties processing the traumatic events they experienced. There’s a growing acknowledgment that soldiers of recent military conflicts often experience PTSD.
This growing acknowledgment is a good sign. It recognizes that the wounds of battle aren’t just physical, they’re emotional as well. It recognizes that this is a very real problem that needs a solution, and the military and others are working to provide such a solution. It’s bringing the veterans and their problems into the open, not trying to hide them. It’s memorializing veterans for more than one or two days a year.