As noted here before, I’m still subject to nightmares and sometimes to weeping. But otherwise, I manage. The process of learning to keep my feelings in check was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to take on. And my gradually growing pride in my service has alleviated some of the strain.
More than twenty veterans commit suicide each day. Why? The sources I know of don’t specify the cause, but I have no doubt that PTSI is a major component. I understand their plight. I know what it’s like to feel that I can’t tolerate another day of fighting and flying from insufferable and never-fading memories. I know the profound shame of having participated in ghastly events. I can’t block memories of men dying by my side in ways so macabre that I can’t talk about it.
I believe that we can help veterans cope by stressing to them two aspects of their lives. One is the gratitude of our country for the sacrifices they made on our behalf. The other is emphasizing the pride they can take in having risked everything for the good of their country.
And we can express our love for them. I love other veterans. I know, men are not supposed to love one another, but my feeling for these men is too strong to be described as anything but love. Sometimes, I shake their hands and thank them. Sometimes I give them a bear hug. I tell them that I and all Americans are in their debt. I express my profound respect for them.
In short, I do everything I can to make them feel their own worth. When I see a glimmer pride, I know I’ve helped and PTSI has been defeated, at least temporarily.