Give A Soldier A Hug

soldierI was going to do a Bad Bloggers post today, but I’ve decided to forego that idea after my night at the hospital. I’m taking a break from books on the blog today. Every day, soldiers are deployed to fight a war that they may or may not agree with. They do it selflessly. They put not only their lives on the line, but the essence of who they are as a human being. No one enters war and comes back from it unchanged.

I had a guy in his mid twenties present for admission today and he affected me in a more profound way than any other patient has since I’ve been working at the psyc hospital. This was a guy who should just be finishing college, living the best years of his life, and learning where he wants to go with his life. Instead, he considered his life over. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, his first being during the initial strike. The things he described seeing nearly brought tears to my eyes. He saw friends literally shot across the torso to the point where his body was literally separated into two halves. He shot and killed Iraqis only to eat dinner with their families months later. He described in detail the scent of human flesh on fire.

He’s now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many people suffer from this due to all kinds of causes. A person can live with PTSD as the result of abuse, war, or even something that others may consider trivial. But I see it more and more at the hospital since the war. The numbers have easily doubled. I’ve worked with a man who suffers from PTSD from the Vietnam War and I can’t help but see the same life for this young man in his twenties if he didn’t seek help. Right now, he battles the flashbacks, the nightmares, and the hallucinations with a 12 pack per day and a few Xanax. What kind of life is that for a guy in his twenties? He sees everybody he comes across as a target. He’s angry. He’s angry.

I’d be angry too. This is a young man who put everything on the line for his country and when he was discharged, he was left with very few resources. The VA offers some assistance, but only after you’ve served your time on the waiting list. It had to get to the point where he had to be hospitalized at a psychiatric hospital for him to get the help that he truly needs. At the end of my assessment with him, I thanked him for all that he did and told him that I was sorry for all that he sacrificed while I fought back tears looking at this kid who has so much potential behind this tragedy. If you know a soldier or someone that has served in a war, give them a hug and tell them how much they’re loved. They need it.

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13 Responses

  1. It’s just so weird to me to call something like this post-traumatic stress “disorder” when really, I would be worried if someone who’s seen what he’s seen felt no lasting emotional impact. Which isn’t to say that he and people in his situation don’t need all the help and support they can get, of course. It’s just that the language of psychology and its implications of what is the “norm” and what is “deviance” have always bugged me. But no news there…off the soapbox now πŸ˜›

    Anyway, poor guy 😦 Wars suck. I know this isn’t about books, but one of the most affecting scenes in The Night Watch (which takes place during WW2) had to do with something similar to this. It seriously broke my heart.

  2. Thank you for this heartfelt post, Chris. I hope it’s read by thousands.

  3. Chris this was such a thoughtful and important post. Thank you for sharing.

    I am disgusted with how we treat our veterans and returning soldiers. Unfortunately, it’s not just psychiatric either. One of my close friends father is retired military, he was a nurse over in the war, and now (due to age) suffers with heart issues. They have continued to postpone his surgeries because in their eyes, he is not at that “high risk” rate (even though he was had afflictions and various doctors have said he has needed the surgeries immediately). The VA just will not foot the bill. His income is based on what the military provides. We all know the bitches of medicare/health insurance.

    On top of that, I had the opportunity to visit my friend’s dad in the VA hospital many years back. He had just come out of another surgery (one that they felt they could “fit in”). We made the drive to Gainesville, FL. Upon entering the hospital my first observation were the dank and dark hallways. The paint was peeling off of the walls, for gods’ sakes! For the most part, things are a bit of a blur because it was many years ago, but my next recollection is visiting him (post op) in a room with five other patients. There was little privacy or room. As a foil, Shand’s hospital, pretty renowned for his up and coming technologies and doctors, sits pleasantly *right* *across* *the* *street*.

    Politically what does this say about our country? I admit, I used my American voice to speak out against the war. I thought (and still do) feel it was an inappropriate decision and one made based on power and control rather than altruistic or even preventative goals. I always wondered those if Americans who badgered me for being unpatriotic ever saw the aftermath up close and personal. We should be encircling these men and women from the armed forces, instead, most are treated like victims of poverty.

    I hope that your soldier is able to find the necessary means to quieten his ghosts. I also hope that financially he is able to continue treatment in the hopes of eventually finding a moment of peace.

  4. Chris – Thanks for this dose of reality. I do hope that your soldier is able to get the help he needs from you and the rest of the staff at your hospital. And it sounds like YOU could use a hug as well. {{{hug}}}

    I would like the point out that SOMETIMES the VA can be a fantastic place.
    My grandfather fought in WWII; he’s 91 now and he’s had surgeries at the VA here in Maryland – they always treat him like a king there. My dad fought in Vietnam; he doesn’t have health insurance, so the VA has been a wonderful resource for him as well. Just thought you and your readers might like to know . πŸ™‚

  5. Wow. Thank you for reminding us of the many people fighting for our freedom. Without them, and the many that came before them, we would not have the life we all share. God Bless them and I will continue to pray for every one of them.

  6. That poor guy. My friend’s husband was in Iraq for a year and a half, and now he might be sent to Afghanistan. She said that when he first came back, he couldn’t sleep and would jump at sudden movements or loud noises. I can’t imagine having to go through what those soldiers do every day.

  7. Great post Chris. I’ve lamented the fact before that the men and women in the armed services do not get the respect, appreciation, and thanks that they deserve for the sacrifices they make for our country in peace time and in war time. I cannot imagine what it must be like to actually fight in a war, but it cannot be anything but hellish and it is no surprise that it is a hard thing to come back from. The VA does some great things but it is also underfunded and undermanned and should be one of the things that is being retooled. Whenever I have a conversation with someone who is currently serving I make it a point to thank them and I truly mean it. The freedom to sit here and blog whatever I want is one of the many liberties bought by the blood of men and women who offered up their lives for a higher purpose. They deserve our honor and respect.

  8. Thanks for posting this. It’s really scary, what’s happening to our fine people over there, and the lack of resources to help them cope when they return. Not to mention what this war is doing to the Iraqi people as well.

  9. Very fitting post! I hope lots of people read it and it opens their eyes.

  10. This is a very nice post, Chris. I honestly think it’s horrible the way we treat our veterans today. My dad is a Vietnam veteran. The VA hospitals are so lacking compared to other hospitals, it’s kind of scary. When my dad was going through his treatment for Prostate cancer, for it to be covered he had to go to a VA hospital that was literally 300 miles away.

    I’m not in favor of this war we are in. But I feel so sorry for the soldiers that are having to deal with this on a daily basis. It just breaks my heart.

  11. Thanks for this heartfelt post. The job you do is so important; I hope you realize how much he probably appreciated you.

  12. Chris – Thank you so much for this post, and thank you for all the hard work that you do. It is good to be reminded of the realities of war. I hope many read your post.

  13. I have two brothers-in-law who are military men; one just got out of the army after 20 years, and one has just joined, and has been to Iraq once, and will be going over on the next tour next year. Your post is as important up here as it is to you in the US, because often our vets and war survivors are treated the same way as yours are. We have military hospitals, and the veterans are supposed to receive good care, but we are hearing stories about delayed hospital care and treatment that is so undeserved for these men and women who fought for our country. Thanks for sharing the story of the soldier. I hope he is able to now get some help that he so much needs, and deserves.

    And you too, for bearing witness and trying to help – thank you too, Chris. *hug*

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