A Letter to Today’s War Vets from a Vet of an Older War
You did your part.
Now you face a different struggle: Re entry into an indifferent society with a declining economy. And, possibly, some of these things:
Discharges for Pre existing Conditions
The Walter Reed Hospital Scandal
Inadequately prepared VA
No draft or taxes to staff and pay for the war efforts
Skeletonized GI Bill (educational benefits)
Depleted Uranium / Gulf War Syndrome
Relationship / Intimacy problems
Restlessness / Boredom
High Risk activities
Substance Abuse / Self Medication
Sense of Direction (lost)
Watch out for those things. Some folk might have to deal with some of that for a while. Most won’t. Hardly any one will face all.
The U.S. supposedly supports the troops. Don’t expect that as a veteran. The nation’s full of Chicken Hawks, Chicken Hearts and people with weird political ideas and agendas they expect some one else to do the heavy lifting for. Yellow ribbons ain’t gonna get it. If you’re lucky you will find a few people who really care for you and back that with acts.
It’s normal to feel abnormal. You may not still be in the military but you’ll never be like the average civilian who only knows war or combat from a video game, movie or book.
You had the smarts, heart, skill, strength and luck to survive there. With a different kind of effort, you’ll survive here. You’ve been changed but hopefully not maimed in heart, mind or spirit.
It will take a while to “detox” and get into the “groove” again. Don’t be ashamed to seek and ask for a help or a hand up if you need it.
You can get good feelings from talking to other vets, joining a veterans group or working with your “higher power” (how ever you define that). Visit a web site like this one. Do the things you really used to enjoy. Find new people and things that turn you on. What ever’s mostly safe and mostly sane. What ever doesn’t hurt you, yours or others.
It is good to be alive. Enjoy life. Claim happiness.
People have different reasons for joining the military. The bottom line is that you did.
You served and sacrificed. Most Americans—most so called “patriots”—never do that.
You may have been strained but you’re not damaged goods. You’ve already exceeded what most way REMF politicians and civilians will ever do.
Use the same heart and mind that got you through the mess and back to the U.S. to thrive here. Don’t rush it but don’t delay it too long either.
You have a new way to measure and deal with “hard times” and daily stress.
Some professional athletes call themselves “warriors.” You know what the real thing is.
Today’s wars are worse than Nam. There is no draft and a much smaller percentage of the population bears the weight for all. And the same neglect of veterans goes on.
But, you don’t have to embrace the suck any more! All there is here are the winds, wildfires, and mudslides of daily life. You’ve dealt with worse.
People have learned a lot since the Nam time. Well, not too much really. But people and institutions have learned some things and changed others. You’ll probably never run into some one like the dumb high school kids who’d ask me “Did you kill any one?”
The very question shows they a) had no cool or clue and b) no concept of what war is about or like. And, hopefully, you’ll never run into some one like this:
A coed walked up to me one day on a college campus while I was in a conversation with some one else. She blurted out “Why are all you Vietnam vets so crazy!?”
I didn’t cuss her out, smack her or call her out of her name. I just said, in an even quiet voice like some one talking to a *very* dumb child, “Because of people like you asking questions like that.”
Some people, places and things you may never forget. Some you may never want to see or think of again. Time may not heal all wounds but it does help you get used to them and learn workarounds.
Welcome home. Keep on keepin’ on. You’ve taken the test. Now take the best and later for the rest. Most of you are going be all right.
Woe unto the statesman who makes war without a reason that will still be valid when the war is over! After the war, you will all look differently at these questions. Otto Von Bismarck (1815–1898), Prussian statesman.