How to say thank you
This Memorial Day we have a real reason to recall why we need a defense against those who want to do us harm. Osama bin Laden was an evil man with hatred and menace in his thoughts and actions. He caused human death on a scale difficult to comprehend. The world could not allow him to continue to destroy lives because of his ideology. He had to be stopped.
Memorial Day is on the horizon, and that has caused me to stop and contemplate the need to take up arms against other human beings. Oh, how we wish that this was a world in which everyone got along, in our families, our nations and on our planet. But thousands of years have proven that is not the case. We all possess those human qualities that lead us to fear, anger, jealousy, greed, power and plain, old misunderstanding. Added to this layer of conditions are conflicting interests, limited resources and differing cultural values and practices, and, voil’, discord on every front.
At one time, I worked for a college program called Peace House. It was set up as an interfaith academic program to study the history of conflict, peace initiatives and philosophies. The hope was that through understanding and practice, we might gain some insights into how to meet or avoid conflict in a peaceful manner. We were asked to examine passiveness as an option. I am a rather peaceful kind of person and can’t imagine myself doing real harm to anyone.
But as I sat there in the glow of the idea of turning the other cheek, I realized that I have had a life with the luxury of never having to defend myself or anyone else. I had never been bullied or abused. My name was never on a military draft list. I had never seen my family tortured or my town threatened. I have been defended nationally by a strong military that made my peaceful life possible. For me to act like I had the experience or the right to sit comfortably at home and act pious about my attitudes or actions was not OK. Other people had assumed the unpleasant job of taking care of the bad guys.
I had a young friend who served in Iraq and lost his life there. When he enlisted, he told his bewildered Quaker family, ‘With the world in turmoil, every country must have a military and somebody has to be in it.’ His parents are my friends, and they wrestle with this issue every day. We all should. It is a dilemma of the human race: How can we keep the peace without engaging in war?
I can’t imagine what it feels like to be in combat. I can’t know what it is like to carry those feelings and images in your mind the rest of your life. There is horror here beyond my ability to absorb. There is no way we can ever adequately honor or memorialize those who have served in our armed forces, but we sure need to figure out how we can do our best. No mere flyover of planes at a race track is enough. No prayers, once a year on Memorial Day, can repay those who have sacrificed so that we might live peaceful lives.
The ‘walking wounded’ are our friends, family members and neighbors. The statistics on the damage to those who serve and their families are startling.
Beth Karnes, president and CEO of the Indiana Mental Health Memorial Foundation, told me, ‘1.64 million folks have been activated recently. Projection in the Rand study is that 300,000 troops will come back with major depression or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. For so many reasons, only half of them will seek help. Of the 150,000 who do seek help, only 25 percent will receive best evidenced based care.’
In 2009, more military personnel died from suicide than died in combat.
For too long, the stigma against admitting that strong military personnel get sick and need help has kept people in pain.
Veterans face many other challenges in their re-entry to civilian life. Check out the new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate called the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011. It would require, for the first time, U.S. service members to enroll in a federal job training program before they’re allowed to leave the military.
There are plenty of places to ask the question, ‘What can I do to understand more about the toll that military service takes on veterans and their families?’ Just get on the Internet and type the words ‘veterans statistics’. From there, you have lots of choices to find out who has answers and what possible solutions are available.
Let us really honor and thank those who have protected our country by being alert to the needs of veterans and their families and making sure that good quality services are not only available, but encouraged and supported.