Greetings and salutations from the sand, sun and surf of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and the great island of Nantucket! On a very windy and rainy, did I mention foggy, day here on Cape Cod, Osterville’s seaside haven, I bid you and yours a fine and fair adieu. General Peter Chiarelli is working to change the attitudes towards PTSD and suicide in the army, a problem that has become an epidemic. Said the general, “I was asked to reduce the amount of suicides now in the army…” what resistance have you had? “There has been some internal resistance, I would think,” said the interviewer… “It’s a very difficult thing, because you are fighting a culture that really doesn’t believe in these things, it doesn’t believe that injuries you can’t see, can be as serious as those injuries you can see. The idea that somehow you are a weaker person because you see something, that NO human being should ever have to see, that, that causes an injury to your body, is hard for some people to accept. And we are never going to totally convince everyone that these are hidden injuries, as serious as losing an arm or a leg, and are things, quite frankly, that science behind them and how we treat them is just not as mature as it is for some of the other wounds of war.” If you ever saw a soldier with PTSD, would you take him off the line? “Exactly, we cannot ignore this, if we saw a soldier with a gash in his leg and it was bleeding, would we take him off the field and care for his needs? God damn rights we would. And if we see a soldier from today, who is suffering from PTSD, or traumatic brain injury, or any other kind of behavioral health issue, we’ve gotta take ‘em off the battlefield and try and get him the help that he needs. Only bad things happen when you wait to treat an injury.” IN WORLD WAR I “it” was called “shell shock”, are you listening Nantucket Police Department! Writing about PTSD is the key to getting better, or at least feeling better for the moment. That is what happened to me, after that fateful day, August 2, 2003 when Sgt. Chretian, of the NPD, literally and purposefully “slam dunked” (words used by two witnesses only 20 feet away) my head face first into the cobblestones of the quaint little town of Nantucket, a place I have, do and always will hold dear to my heart. I have had to face the demons, the nightmares and the feeling that, “something is never quite right enough for me to just relax and take off the hyper-alertness tape that seems to tell me that I could get hurt again…” It has been about finding a way to forgive them, embrace the horror of that day and bring it into the LIGHT, the light of well being that is evident all around me if I can just put down my guard long enough for me to enjoy it–allowing that connection to all that was, all that IS and all that will be. Especially the first, the PAST, for it no longer exists, except as a “thought” in your head, or an energy that one feels one must “fight” in order to survive. That is what PTSD feels like–a real nightmare, ongoing during the entirety of a day. That thought, leads to another “thought” and so on, for that is how the brain works, which, if you have PTSD, is a big problem–for it sucks the JOY out of life, along with the LOVE in your heart, not to mention your confidence–your feeling of connectedness to a greater purpose, a greater good, far beyond the reach of any man’s egoic philosophy of what man is to begin with. Watching the new documentary on HBO, “War Torn-1861-2010″, a must see if I ever did say so, is an historical look back at all of the trauma that has transpired and how it has been dealt with over the past 150 years, war trauma. It is the story of the effects of war on human beings and how we have collectively dealt with the psychological drama that emanates from such horrid violence. The documentary reveals the “detachment” many soldiers feels towards their fellow human beings when they return home from the front lines, enduring cliche diagnoses under auspicious titles such as “battle fatigue” to a slap on the face from General Patton in WW II, whose mean spirited vibrato utilized derogatory terms such as “yellow” when describing a soldier who was afraid to get out of his bed, let alone fight some obtuse “enemy”…that, of course, is when old Patton famously slapped the private silly. A soldier who just did not want to see any more death, for it was abhorrent to his nature, and indeed, if you still have a heart, all of ours. The subject of PTSD will become a household item of discussion in the coming years and WE, collectively as a species, will come to understand that this eternal war we seemed to be engaged in, is folly and counter-productive to the VALUES we all hold dear–profoundly put by Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers and former President, written over 225 years ago–”LIFE, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness.” Not just for the top 2 percent, but for all the people, “WE THE PEOPLE”… Speaking to a few Iraqi Vets, still on duty, HBO spoke with two, one with five tours under his belt… What does PTSD feel like? Sgt. John Wesley Mathew, of the Louisiana National Guard said, “I came back at 26 years old. I was engaged at the time, not any more, see no wedding band?, ah, my life had been flipped upside down, the state was in shambles, Rita (Hurricane Rita) hit three weeks after we got home, then things started happening to me personally, sleep cycle nothing, I think it took 4 months before I could fall asleep before 4 in the morning, and that was with the help of medication. I take Ambien (highly addictive) and I have depression, you’re just feeling burnt out, it’s not that anything was terribly hard, we had days, but it was the constant day after day, days after days after days of living on such high alert level physically, will burn your candle out.” Said first Sgt. 1st class Jonathan Deshotels, “I remember we were running through the neighborhoods, I mean there was gun fire going on all over, you don’t even know where the gunfire is coming from, you don’t even know if they are shooting at you, to tell you the truth, and I remember thinking, this is some black hawk down stuff, we’re supposed to be at an LSU football game right now, and I, ah, and that was a long day. You’d have days like that and would compile into other days that would compile into other days.” “It’s hard to be taught to do what we do, combat arms, and then just expect you to turn it off. And that’s the hard thing about going home, you get there and they just expect you to go back into society.” Who’s they? “Family, friends, whoever else, in early April of 2006, I actually hit rock bottom, I actually contemplated suicide for a while, it really got to the point where I didn’t really know what “it” was, mentally. I didn’t know where I was, I was lost, I really felt like I was making my way with my hands in the dark.” “It’s just like you can’t get straight,” “yeah” , “It’s just like you can’t get yourself right.” “And no matter what you do, whether you are talking to other people, or talking to each other, nothing helps,” “No, it’s just that you can’t figure yourself out.” “It will tear you apart, It will tear your life apart, and many a soldier has met an end, either by his own hand, or by the bottle, or somethin’, cause they didn’t know what else to do…” Hey, Boehner and McConnell, you want to balance the budget? Start with our ridiculous military brass in the Pentagon and their never ending spending on the US military industrial complex, and, oh yeah, p.s., give our soldiers the help and care they deserve!!! Have a nice day folks… PRESERVE THE WILDERNESS! Peace~M
November 17, 2010
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