Veterans do not need Sally Struthers

Nolan Peterson wrote an incredible article the other day, titled "Why Soldiers Miss War". Take a moment or two and go read it. It will be worth your time. 

Back? Good. Thank you for reading that. That article is probably the most important article you'll read all year. The paradigm shift it puts forth is priceless. The money quote(s) as I see it are:

"Contrary to the steady stream of Wounded Warrior Foundation commercials on TV, combat veterans are not broken, and they are not victims.
They should not be pitied or looked at with a sad shaking of the head or some reflexive “Geez, what a shame.” Pitying them belittles their experiences and misrepresents the challenges they face after military life."


And for those who ultimately descend into a darkness from which they cannot save themselves, it was not war that broke them.
It was the peace to which they returned, but never found."

I have never been comfortable with the widely-accepted perception that veterans are victims. It has never sat well with me. This article articulates that feeling for me.

I've never really experienced the full power of the bonds formed during a shared experience such as a wartime deployment, but I've glimpsed it and it's...powerful. It's awe-inspiring. It's intoxicating. And it's worthy of envy. It makes most day-to-day, civilian relationships seem mundane and one dimensional (obviously there are experiences in civilian life that are similar and create similar bonds). It shines a light on what are often superficial connections back home.

And the fact that a veteran was privileged to experience that - voluntarily - makes them not a victim but...something else. I've never met a veteran who was comfortable with the term 'hero' and I don't want to use it here, but I'm having trouble coming up with a term that will suffice. 

These men and women *willingly* walked away from their families, their friends, their lives, and walked *into* the chaos. While it may not have been for some big ideal, it was ultimately for the biggest ideal - to serve their fellow man. Most often, 'their fellow man' was the person next to them in the Humvee, or the helicopter, or on patrol, or in the CHU with them. Or it was in service to the friends and family they left behind. But it was in service to their fellow man. 

Jesus gave us two commandments:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our veterans are living, breathing testimonies to the second commandment, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, agnostic Wiccan, atheist...you name it. They embody it. Even the ones that joined simply for the college money. Even the ones booted out for their drinking problem or failing a PT test or whatever other trouble they landed themselves in. And yet our veterans are often portrayed as victims. 

They most certainly are not.

Derek Weida put up a video the other day that, coupled with this article, really started me thinking on all of this. His organization, The Next Objective, is a combat veteran-run initiative committed to empowering our returning service members to overcome obstacles and achieve post-military success. He is the example to follow. He articulates the paradigm shift that needs to happen. (I'd mention Team Rubicon here but all 3 of my readers already know that I am their unoffical cheerleader)

The thing is that it's not going to come from the government. It never does. It will have to come from within. Who better to address the needs of veterans than people who have walked in those boots and understand the complexities and layered needs of the veteran community? I can see the grass-roots movement starting and it's electrifying. 

- hfs

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