Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On the Bright Side...

REUTERS - "Newly diagnosed cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan surged 46.4 percent in 2007, bringing the
five-year total to more than 38,000, according to U.S. military data released on
Tuesday.
The statistics, released by the Army, showed the number of new PTSD
cases formally diagnosed at U.S. military facilities climbed to 13,981 last year
from 9,549 in 2006."

Chilling.

Sobering.

This news item settled down around my head like a helmet today. These individuals who are spending months at a time away from their families, their friends, their homes, every comfort they possess, are returning home with physical injuries and limitations as well as mental and emotional scars. They will populate our communities in incredible numbers, scarred in ways most of us cannot imagine.

Somehow, though, despite the weight of this notion, my brain sought a light pathway through the dense grey. What if these soldiers coming home wounded in ways we can see and those we cannot are met by love and compassion? What if our culture, our society, was forced by the sheer numbers to learn how to make our neighborhoods a better place for them to live? What if, out of necessity, we adapted to the needs of those who require gentleness and kindness, accomodation and understanding? What if, as a collective, connected community we reached out and proactively created ways for these courageous individuals to feel safe? Maybe the stigma attached to mental trauma and illness diminished. Perhaps our first instincts shift from fighting to talking.

What if?

What if, regardless of who is "to blame," we all realize that it is in our best interest to come up with new methods of helping those around us feel as though they are part of the bigger whole? Instead of criticizing the military actions that led to these injuries and leaving the treatment to the government, what would happen if we started a dialogue that included the idea that we are all responsible for each other's well-being? Can we imagine what our lives would be like if we simply accepted the fact that these individuals have been deeply scarred by events beyond their own control and we all took one small step toward easing their return to their homes?

9 comments:

Eileen said...

"Helping others around us feel like they are part of the bigger whole." I love this. I love this whole post. Compassion, caring, acceptance and love. I would love so much if "What if" became "It is."

Love you.

P.S. I accept your dirt challenge.

Marla said...

I have two young people in my life right now that are preparing to serve. One to Iraq. She is so brave and yet I don't want her to go. Your post is an important reminder to be there for her now and when she returns.

Michelle O'Neil said...

A brain researcher at an autism conference I went to, on a lark scanned some of the brains of his autistic patient's mothers, and they all lit up like soldiers with PTSD.

Our government cares about our young soldiers about as much as it cares for kids with autism. Or their families.

Collateral damage. Oh well.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"What if?" I like the way you think.

Jerri said...

Totally with you here, Kari.

I don't know anyone, not anyone at all, who hasn't been deeply scarred by events beyond their own control.

Kindness and compassion are the only answers.

grammer said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I sing Kate Power's "Travis John" for the soldiers at every show I give, and I almost always ask people to remember the scarred, as well as the fallen. The damage is deep and cannot be easily undone... but I have faith it can, in time, be healed.

One person, one family, one neighborhood at a time, Kario. No reason not to begin today.

Deb said...

Very wise musings and incredibly powerful questions. I think this needs to be read by more than those of us fortunate enough to know to come here.

Go Mama said...

What an amazing post.

Jess said...

So well said. I absolutely agree, but I'm still going to criticize the government.

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