Not All Returning Veterans Returned Complete [OPINION]
On this Veteran's Day, I found myself reflecting on a few things.
First, I am thankful that I never had to see combat. The closest I've come to that was, during the first Gulf War, our unit had our bags packed and was waiting on the bus (which, thankfully, never came). We were on lock-down on base for 2 weeks (if my memory serves me correctly), but we ended up not having to go.
I also reflected on those veterans who have seen combat.
War has always been Hell. Of course, I only know because of what I've read and from veterans with which I've spoken. Through advances in technology and medicine, more soldiers are returning injured than ever before (percentage-wise, at least). During the World Wars, and even Korea and Vietnam, soldiers often died from wounds that many recover from today. Daily, I think about our soldiers who come back from the desert missing appendages, not getting the help our government should be giving.
And though every war has sent home its pawns broken, physically and/or mentally, it seems as though the Vietnam War, and its aftermath, took the biggest toll on our veterans.
Over 116, 000 in WWI; 400,000 in WWII; 36,000 in the Korean War; and over 58,000 dead in the Vietnam War (not counting MIA: over 1,600)
We lost more souls in other wars, but the politics of the Vietnam War, combined with the gorilla warfare used by the enemy and the reception upon return, really took a mental toll on our veterans.
I'm no historian or military expert; I'm just a guy who talks to people. I have seen veterans weep for their lost buddies, and I've seen them cry when they reconnect with others. I've seen them laugh about their experiences, and I've seen them stop mid-story, their words trailing off when they hit a memory that had been repressed.
I can't speak for what each veteran went through, or if one particular veteran "handled" things better than another because, basically, we are all different, and we don't all handle things the same way. What I do know is this: of the hundreds of veterans I've spent time with, it seems like there are more Vietnam Veterans who, even though they returned from war, they never really "came home".
I was born in the latter years of the Vietnam War; too young to remember seeing much about it on the television news but old enough to see some family and friends who, to this day, are still missing a piece of themselves. Pieces of their hearts, souls and minds remained in the jungle, held captive by our own government who kept feeding money and bodies into an unwinnable war. Pieces of their hearts, souls and minds taken by the thankless Americans who blamed them for answering their call to duty. Pieces of their hearts, souls and minds taken from themselves through guilt and shame.
I know that ALL of our veterans came back from war in a different frame of mind as when they left. Many of them go on to lead "normal" lives. Too many don't.
My hope is that those who came home broken can find peace: peace in the world, and peace in their own minds.