Monday, May 30, 2005

Honoring More than the "Physically" Dead

Today is the official day to remember the fallen servicemen and servicewomen who have given their lives while serving in our armed forces. While I certainly feel compassion for their families, my concern today is more for the forgotten dead -- those who return from war with a shattered heart or a dead spirit.

Some of these folks have outward manifestations of their injuries (e.g., disfigurement, a missing limb, a missing eye, etc.). Many returning soldiers, however, look as is if they've come out of the war unscathed. They look young and healthy.

But their appearance hides a sad truth. The person who patriotically marched off to war has died spiritually/emotionally and a different person -- hollow or tormented -- has returned in their place. Yes, it still looks like Bob or Debbie, but it no longer acts, thinks or behaves like the Bob or Debbie we once knew.

For these individuals Memorial Day must be a form of torture that few of us can even imagine. I would think it would publicly dredge up the phantoms they so desperately try to evade each and every day. Faces of dead comrades. Images of horrific carnage. Feelings of uncontrollable fear, anxiety and depression.

So, while there's nothing wrong with honoring those who didn't return at all, please don't forget those who did return physically, but not spiritually. One of the best ways we can each honor THEIR sacrifice is to push for greater funding for veteran mental health services.

For some, returning home is a punishment worse than death. These are the souls I honor today.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, finally agree with you on this 100%. Not to dishonor those that have died but those that must continue to live with less physically than they started out with should never be forgotten - and I don't mean just a day or words spoken nicely about them. For each and every one that have injuries that would place them into the handicap classification there should be a federal job they would have priority over a typical citizen. If they were too young (often the case) to have a solid career talent then there should be federal funding to help them secure a marketable talent (above and beyond the general "G.I. Bill").

    I do know there is a point system that such survivors can have some degree of preferential standing when being hired but I don't think it is enough.

    (Sorry - but I don't buy those "ex-vet" signs the street people hold up to get $$$. They will hold up (even a dog or child) anything to increase their income, and that's a fact!)

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