By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
PTSD, amputated limbs, shrapnel wounds, migraine headaches, charred skin. These are just some of the more prominent injuries that face our current and future Veterans of the War on Terror. The last few generations have always regarded the generation that fought WWII as the “Greatest Generation.” And they may have been. But the strength, endurance and dedication to this unpopular war, by the men and women who fight it and will survive it, should be something to revere for generations to come.
We see the pictures of wounded warriors dressed in modified BDU’s and PT gear, getting fitted with prosthetics. Our hearts are full at the sight of these proud Veterans trying out their new body parts. We see news stories about Veteran amputees completing marathons and participating in competitive sports. Simultaneously, we grieve for their sacrifice and admire their strength to endure.
There are also the thousands of Veterans who suffer from behavioral and mental health illnesses due to battle-related stress. These brave warriors were trained and conditioned to survive in a hell of rough terrain, exploding roads, and enemy gunfire. Now these survivors are facing difficulties returning to normal life. Years of using their training to remain constantly vigilant have made many of these Veterans unable to live their lives as they would have, had they not spent their time at war.
Unfortunately, there is no prosthetic these mentally wounded Vets can use to undo the trauma they have suffered. Their brains, although not always physically damaged, have been re-wired to function through the severe conditions that they faced in order to survive. These warriors, out of necessity, desensitized themselves to death and human suffering. Now, the very brain mechanics that kept them alive in combat will impede any sense of normalcy in their civilian lives.
Unlike their fathers and grandfathers, these men and women were not drafted. This generation of Veterans voluntarily dedicated their lives to fighting. And when their time fighting is over, there’s a good chance that they may never be at peace. Many survivors have had difficulties reconnecting with spouses and loved ones due to PTSD and other mental health concerns. They may never again be able to comfortably face crowded public areas. Taking their families to theme parks, sporting events, movies and shopping malls have become a troublesome ordeal. Many will never feel normal again.
Over the next few years, after more than a dozen years of enduring war, our country will discharge a large portion of our armed forces. We trained these warriors to fight and survive; but will we be able to train these men and women how to live? They have proven that they possess the ability to endure. But as a nation, we need to help these warriors to find peace when they finally come home.