Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Veteran Weighs the Costs of War...

Do The Costs of Two Wars Exceed Our Human Capacity to Care?
by Chante Wolf, 
Persian Gulf War Veteran
Ed Note: I first met Chante when she signed on with VetSpeak.org to go to the 2008 Winter Soldier I&A, held at the National Labor College in May of that year.  We went not only to "cover" the hearings, but to stand as VVAW security for the event as well.  Chante, along with 12 other VetSpeak.org/Old School VVAW folks stood the front gate security detail during the hearings. We have been close friends, ever since. Together with VetSpeak co-founder Diane Ford, we have been working together to expand Women Veterans' voices through the medium of writing. Here is Chante's voice, speaking out strong...WH
As an uncle recently told me, “I probably will not read your latest publication (my Veterans Book Project, soon to be published) because, for me, it is time to move on, NOT from your story exactly, but the hardship some of it has caused you.”
I already get the tip-toe treatment and a pat on the head sorta speak from other family members when I get really upset with our military missions of pre-meditated mass murder. So what next? If I can not voice my feelings about war and the currently proposed never-ending one, when do I get to “move on?” When do the troops who have been exposed to mass horror tour after tour get the chance to protect their ‘beautiful minds’ like former first lady, Barbara Bush said in 2003 before the invasion of Iraq?
Are our families in emotional overload? Are they tired of the anger, money problems, isolation and walking on egg shells around their veteran, careful not to set them off over the simplest thing? I know that there are family members who have started to commit suicide themselves. On two different occasions I heard the stories about the children of veterans attempting suicide, including a niece of a veteran who killed himself.
Often soldiers come home disillusioned, full of guilt, remorse and displaced anger over the tremendous loss of life and destruction as well as the calamities of friendly fire, accidents and fraud, waste and abuse of U.S. tax dollars. And what happens when they get dissed by their own families who can not find the courage to listen with heart or begin to grasp the enormous change their loved one has just gone through, for the fourth, fifth, or sixth time? Are the soldiers told, “it is time for me to move on”, or “shut the fuck up and get over it - it is in the past now”, or “there is more to life than your war shit, you fucking drunk!”?
Where do the soldiers go next and who can they trust to hear their pain without judgement? 
Recently at the Minneapolis VA, I walked in with an ex-Marine hurting from the recent losses of two more men in his original unit (7 already committed suicide alone). He was suicidal. We went to the PTSR clinic for lack of knowledge of where we should have gone. We were then escorted from the PTSR clinic to the Emergency Room, and the woman escort relayed why we were there to the woman at the front desk. Once at the desk the woman asked the ex-Marine some questions, then started to “should” on him for not keeping his appointments three-years ago. He began to cry and told her he can’t get the war out of his head and he wants to kill himself.
After he went through the task of getting evaluated he was wheel-chaired behind closed doors and left by himself for over 45 minutes. The young man was then ‘should’ on again, this time by the social worker about needing not to do alcohol or drugs for a period of time before he could get help and was then let go to his own accord. Once outside with a fellow VFP Vietnam Marine, he told us that out of his original unit it was only him and another guy left alive, that he just wanted to be normal like everyone else.
Where do us vets go when our families have had enough heartache? What safe space do we find when the family still wants to ‘rah-rah’ about war and all the good we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq liberating all those people to Allah? Who will toss the soldiers the life line they need to get them out of their basements? And the flip of the coin, how will the families begin to find their lives after they have cut their loved one down from the water pipe and garden hose they used to hang themselves?
Support the troops has been a very affective propaganda tool, which in my opinion only means that to protest the war the family member may jinx the life of their loved one deployed. Then the guilt and remorse those families would carry would be unbearable when, in reality it again serves its purpose to silence dissent. Even the spitting image has been effectively used against the peace protestors, specifically women. It seems interesting to me that women are the spitters. Hitler used the same image of women spitting on the German troops after their losing WWI to drum up support for his next war.
How do we ever navigate through all the hypocrisy, spitting images, and calling war veterans cowards because they have been injured mentally from the brutality of war? How do the families negotiate the heartache and adjustments they must deal with their wounded warriors? How do the children grow up with all the confusion going on around them and not themselves be forever affected by war?
If this is really all very confusing - welcome home. This is just the tip of the iceberg that has just broken off in Greenland and is coming to a theater near you.
Why do Americans continue to buy the lies and deceit of the rich and the Pentagon to wage war? What can we really do about it all? Perhaps the sand is a better place to put our heads when the shit is too hard to swallow anymore. I certainly feel this way, and have found myself shying away from other war vets when their stories and heart ache has become too hard for me to bear. And the last nine years has been a long time to hold my breath for the current wars and 19 years of my own guilt and remorse that has cost me more than just brain cells, sleep, my friends from the military, my ex-partner, it has now cost me most of my family.


Anonymous said...

I think, Chante, that you will find that places like this is where you will find your family, now and forever. It has been true for me. And, I don't want to say this in the wrong way (I'm real good at that), but you don't get to be "normal" again. I'm certainly a living example. After 43 years, I'm still not and quite frankly if what I see in America today is "normal" I never want to be normal again. Thank you Chante, for being you.

Wayne Beverly
formerly Texas VVAW, now Thailand VVAW

Asbestos Cancer said...

Great Post.

mutt said...

when I got back from VN and my sociopathic right wing loon old man realized I wasn't going to tell him what he wantd to hear, I was ordered to shut up.
of course, I didnt.
this is the brass ring you win on this merry go round.
it gets no better,it gets no easier, it just is.
So- dont internalize. it isnt YOU.
Its somehing ELSE, something worth exposing and fighting.

tsaal1 said...

Thank you for the very perceptive article...As a retired Marine Lieutenant as a result of wounds received in Vietnam 40 years ago, I could have written this article...However, four years ago, I did search for help, not through the VA however, but through a private hospital here in Akron, Ohio...I went through its PTSD program, quit using drugs and alcohol, and began helping other vets whose lives were exactly as described in the article...In the process I made the decision that I was no longer going to live in my basement and die lonely and angry...It was only a decision that only a lot of counseling and a drug free life could offer and I believe I have taken full advantage of it...Today I have the honor of visiting recovering addicts in the hospital's drug and psychiatriac wards, I belong to a veterans' outreach program, and I work at a homeless shelter for veterans...Today I believe I have a full life, one that would have been impossible had I kept drinking and drugging...Life for veterans does not have to, as they say, "suck"...Life can get better, but we have to make the decision to allow this to happen.

Tom Saal
First Lieutenant
USMC Retired
Akron, Ohio