I don’t think anyone has any idea the effect of what serving in the military or in war has on a person and his/her family. It’s something that one never “gets over.”
My father served as a foot soldier in WWII, fought at the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. He never shared any war stories until my husband joined the family asked for them.
Later, while living in Belgium we took our kids to visit the Ardennes, to the many tributes and memorials that the Belgians and Europeans erected for the Allied Forces.
I was so proud to be an American.
I can’t imagine having those experiences, being on high alert at all times, losing friends, losing a large part of yourself.
My dad had PTSD way before it was ever called that, before there was ever a call or resources to serve those who had served us.
We knew he had something, and that it was associated with the war.
The veteran’s family is often called to sacrifice while never realizing that that is what is going on; without knowing why something is happening, or what it was this time that had triggered such an intense reaction.
My mother and older siblings took the brunt. Then my sister and I took the brunt from them. I had many a time when, though I couldn’t articulate it, I knew I was paying a heavy price for something that happened way before my time, and that it really didn’t have anything to do with me.
But I was still left with bruises on my heart.
So, I learned how to become invisible. Which wasn’t all that bad. I took to books and writing, loving and breathing the outdoors, listening to conversations when people forgot I was there, taking in life first as a spectator, then looking for tribes that would accept me as a participant.
A tribe I have learned to love are the veterans. I don’t think I’ve met a more giving and humble group than those who have served our country, served even those who don’t understand what an amazing country they have, the freedoms that are worth sacrificing for, because they don’t understand what it means to sacrifice.
Not as a veteran.
Not as a family member of a veteran.
And as I’m not invisible anymore, one of my missions is to make sure neither are those who wore the uniform, or those that still wear it and have long since been buried, who didn’t make it home to experience the PTSD or unseen triggers that might leave their families bewildered but still in love with the veteran.
Living with a veteran can be a complicated existence, and it certainly depends on the personality and personal experiences of the one who served in the military. But there are two truths that are self evident, that should be on the forefront—and not just on Memorial Day.
- They served our country, YOUR country.
- They deserve our respect, our compassion, our reverence. They deserve WAY more than we are giving them in return for their sacrifice, for their families’ sacrifice.
Here are a couple of things YOU can do to support our veterans:
- assign a veterans organization as your Amazon Smile’s charity recipient. Make sure you purchase through Amazon Smile and not just the regular site and Amazon will donate to that charity. My personal choice is Camp Hope in Houston, TX, a facility that houses veterans with PTSD and their families and provides pastoral counseling and peer-to-peer mentoring.
- If you have a particular skill perhaps you can donate some time to a veteran organization of your choice. Most have websites that list needs.
- Say thank you! On social media, in person, waiting in line. Appreciation goes a long way.
For those who made it home with your uniform, thank you. You make the world a better place. For families of veterans, you are not invisible. We see you. I see you. I know what it is like. To you, Thank You as well!
Photo credits: top photo by Daniel Foster, bottom photo by Todd Trapani–both on Unsplash
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