by OPOVV, ©2013

(Aug. 12, 2013) — Oh, I know what you’re thinking: somebody died. Well, okay, you’re right, but not in the way you think. They say that loneliness has been the predominant cause of death in our prisons; at least it used to be, until it became another one of the Cash Cows, but that’s another subject for another day. This editorial is just a little bit of homespun advice from someone who has been there, done that.

But I’m not the only one, mind you. Millions have gone before me: all I am is just the mouthpiece for some good advice. Let’s start with dying. You’re alive, then you’re dead. That’s it, the whole enchilada, the whole ball of wax. Either your number is up, or it isn’t.  At least that’s what I used to think, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

I’ll start this off by stating that “shell shock” isn’t anything new; it’s been around for thousands of years but has gone by different names, mostly “He’s not the same,” “He’ll get over it,” and “It’ll take time.”

The truth is that he really isn’t the same, he may not get over it and, no matter what, it will take time. Suicide is a fact of life for those unfortunate souls who suffer, or have suffered, for whatever reason, through no fault of their own, a Post-Traumatic Stress. And that’s exactly what it is, a stress that manifests itself, in whatever form, immediately after the stimulus that caused the havoc or, perhaps even worse and more severe, years later.

Look, I don’t have all the answers; all I can point out is that these days there’s help, really good help, for our troops who even think they have, or may have, a little uneasiness about what they contributed to, what they saw, helped along, or did.

There’s a young man, let’s make him 20, who meets the love of his life and doesn’t like the possibility of making her a widow, so he makes up the excuse that they’ll get married when there’s absolutely no chance of his being sent back to Vietnam. 

Years later they do get married but the nightmares won’t stop. He wakes up shivering and scarred in the middle of the night, seeing the orange of the burning napalm and the blackest smoke you’ll ever see, hearing the whiz of bullets and grenades exploding, smelling the burning flesh: seeing, hearing, smelling as if he were back in it. He’s fighting for his very life, trying to keep it together because the guys who were supposed to be in charge are dead, they’re all dead, and there’s no one else left to save everyone and, by God, he’s just a kid. But wait! He’s not a kid now, it’s years later and he’s out, he’s out of there and out of the military, and yet he’s back in it and can’t get out: he’s living his dream!

Now do you understand about attitude? “What you gonna do, send me to ’Nam?” About He’s not the same? And some wonder why the drugs and the booze started. Don’t wonder. They were to make him comatose so he wouldn’t wake up next to the love of his life not being able to handle it, not being able to keep it together, let alone get it together. So they leave, our veterans who suffer, they pack up and leave, some by eating a bullet, others by just packing up and moving out; they know not where or why. They are unable to express what’s happening because they don’t know what’s happening.

My advice? Returning veterans should talk to someone and have your significant other accompany you to avoid the mistakes of those who went before you. You don’t have to become one of the Walking Dead, living your life without the person you love, of making The Ultimate Sacrifice.


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