Monday, November 7, 2016

Remember them; even when they are back home.

I have lived in a dark place. 
A place where there is no sun and the pit is deep. 
And try as I may to climb out,
the earth keeps giving way beneath my fingers.
But what I have not done is live in a dark place
with memories and images
that are etched upon my delicate brain.
I have not closed my eyes and frequently seen things
too graphic to be drawn,
and I have not seen faces, or places I would rather forget.
I am not often afraid to close my eyes,
wondering what will be on the other side of slumber.
And the tears I have shed
have not been for “brothers” whom I have lost.
I have heard noises that are too much for me to bear
when I am trying to shut the world out. 
But the noises are high pitched squeals of delight
from my healthy children,
or music that just does not allow me to concentrate.
But what I have not done is hear noises
that bring me back to a place I would rather not be. 
I do not go to sleep and hear cries that do not exist,
nor do I hear gunfire. 
I do not remember the screams of those lost
and hear the sounds of war. 
I do not open my eyes in panic
because explosions have resounded in my head.
And I have never associated a slamming door
with prisoners being taken away,
or tanks I must enter.

I have lost my appetite,
and said things I probably should not have
while struggling to get a handle on my ppd.

But what I have not done is lost my appetite
and refused to speak of my struggles. 
I have never had to walk around with the stigma
of being a soldier who should be tough enough
to handle their “feelings”. 
I have not had to bury my heart deep in my chest
for fear it may seem that I am not “strong enough”
if I have to receive help from a professional.

And I cannot imagine that life.
I cannot imagine removing myself from reality,
and then trying to enter back into reality
as though there was never a time when I was gone.
I cannot imagine removing myself from family,
and then not having family understand why I have changed
while I was away from them.
I cannot imagine having all of my senses be awakened
by a nightmare,
and then feeling I cannot talk about the nightmare itself,
but must place it on a shelf in my memory.
I cannot imagine giving myself for people
who do not know me,
and then wondering if those people even care
about what I have done for them.

So this Remembrance Day,
I will adorn my jacket with a poppy.
But more than that,
I want our veterans to feel that when they are home,
that we will embrace them back as different and changed
and new.
PTSD, Depression, Anxiety;
or whatever may come home with them
in their back pack of possessions, it’s ok.
And we will welcome them back with open arms,
regardless of whatever they may be afraid to unpack.
Let us stand up for our minute of silence,
but help them break their silence.
Help them feel safe, and be compassionate,
because the trauma of war does not end
when they return home.

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