I am not part of the group that usually does Wednesday Hero. I don’t make commitments I know I may not be able to keep. My suggestion for Wednesday Hero does not name a single individual. It is a group of soldiers whose sacrifice and contribution are unparalleled in our history in my opinion. But first I feel a need to preface part of their story. I hope afterwards you will see why!
PTSD is a terrible disorder. It can make your life a nightmare of endless reliving of whatever trauma caused the PTSD. As you relive those events, in your mind you are actually in that trauma situation. A victim of sexual abuse such as myself may suddenly find themselves hiding in a closet or countless other things done to escape the abuser. You may find yourself reliving events as if it is now happening, the actual abuse.
A soldier may feel he is actually still on the battlefield or situation that he experienced in combat. A victim of a car crash may suddenly feel he/she is in the middle of some point in that crash. The point I am trying to convey, real or not, is victims of PTSD are not able at the time of the “flashbacks,” to distinguish that the events in their mind are not actually occurring “now!
PTSD can start at any time. For some, symptoms start not long after the trauma. This is especially true for war veterans or active soldiers; but, is not exclusive to the traumas of war. Sexual abuse, rape, car accidents, and numerous other causes too many to name can cause PTSD. It may also start years later. There is no given rule. For instance, at a time in your life when things appear to be going well, you may have surgery and that bodily “intrusion” may cause the onset of PTSD if you have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Other traumatic events may resurface in a similar manner. I have been told, in my case, this happens because your mind says to itself you are ready now to deal with the trauma. I personally believe that to be true. But, this doesn’t mean we should all be wary that something traumatic will come back to kick us in the butt later when our life finally gets to a good point.
Sounds, sights, a passing word, a smell, a taste, all can trigger the onset of the flashbacks. Reading a book or watching a TV program may be the trigger. There are no absolutes or specifics. The flashbacks may appear to be a single frame image of the event that flashes before your conscientiousness before you have a chance to realize what has happened. You just know something doesn’t feel right and often just brush it off as insignificant. Or, you may actually go right into a full blown event where the entire event unfolds. Here again, there are no absolutes.
Sweaty hands, cold feet or body, body or body part weakness, minor or extreme non-specific anxiety, dryness of the mouth or a feeling of inability to swallow, hyperventilation, are just a few accompanying symptoms. Paranoia, aggression, withdrawal are also symptoms for many. There just are no set patterns or specific guides that can say you will experience this disorder in this specific manner. What there are are generalities and previous observations of other PTSD victims to give some indications of symptoms to look for or expect. In actuality, we are all individual, and we all to a degree experience it individually.
Part of the reason for this is our own personal previous life history. Our coping skills we develop based on our life experiences, own own uniqueness, genetics, family and social experiences all play a factor in our ability to cope with this disorder, to recover, to accept the disorder is present, to accept or respond to treatment. In the end, no matter how much help is out there, the person with PTSD will have to do the work.
Whether or not a person recovers depends on many things. All of the specifics in the last paragraph play a huge roll in successful recovery as does prompt treatment. Medications are a help, especially for treating the depression and anxiety that is usually present or develops. But once the depression is under control and the anxiety is handled by medication, the real work begins. I must be careful here to point out that I am relating to major or extreme PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD will struggle for years. This is why immediate intervention is very crucial in treatment!
A close look at the Vietnam War Veterans, how they were treated when they returned, the enormous number of casualties, the lack of immediate and proper care initially not available, the lack of treatment advances now present and available, being forced to turn a victory into failure, the lack of advocates, all played a role in creating a generation of American soldiers and Veterans plagued with severe PTSD. Many of those Veterans never recovered from their PTSD. Many committed suicide, became alcoholics, drug addicts, street people, or homeless. Abandoned by their nation and eventually many became abandoned by family and friends. Many even gave up on themselves. These men and women produced a small, but growing number of activists and “survivors” of PTSD that opened the doors to understanding, treatments, and care for themselves and present day Veterans and soldiers, and in my opinion, the public at large.
As I struggle with PTSD every day, and as a non-combatant Veteran of the Vietnam Era, I am mindful of the extreme sacrifices the Vietnam Era Veterans made on behalf of our nation and fellow soldiers and Veterans. One more reason why we all ought to be grateful to our men and women who served in Vietnam. One more reason why it is so important to allow our troops to finish their mission. May our troops never be forced to abandon those they are helping in the middle of a clear victory in sight. One more reason why the petition at the top of my side bar needs every signature it can get.
If those on the left force withdrawal, the next step will be cut backs in funding and subsequently manpower. Next we will find ourselves where we were during the incident at Somalia! Never again is a refrain of the many Vietnam veterans. Their voice is being heard. The left is beginning to see this time they won’t get a free ride. Across America, their words are beginning to have a positive impact. Let their refrain of “Never again!” become one we all as a nation invoke.
Presently the Vietnam Era veterans, along with other veterans from as far back as World War II, are turning out in droves to stir public awareness to the battles being successfully waged by our troops in Iraq [especially], Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world in the War on Terror. They visit our sick and injured. They meet our returning soldiers and welcome them home in honor! They accompany those “fallen” on their final journey. The list of all the accomplishments they have incurred obtaining medical care for Veterans, family support, and other Veterans’ benefits is amazing.
For their unparalleled display of devotion to duty, honor, and to their country, their courage on and off the battlefield, their determination in the face of a nation that forgot them to never give up, I nominate all the Vietnam Era Veterans as the “Wednesday Hero[es]!”