Yesterday was Veterans’ Day. That’s America’s day to honor those who have served this country as members of the armed forces. Once again, I was moved by the numbers of people expressing their gratitude to our soldiers, pilots, marines, sailors, national guards and other servicemen and women. We civilians know that our military personnel face discipline, danger and despair. And we should thank them for that. They are doing a difficult job most of us wouldn’t want to do ourselves.
But not all veterans are heroes. And we do a disservice to all military personnel when we misuse that word.
Overuse of the word “hero” cheapens it. Just like any other organization, the military has a wide range of members with various levels of dedication, skill and courage. Folks who have served know this better than anyone.
Let’s stop throwing around the H word and start truly repaying the debt we owe the men and women who serve. They may or may not deserve extravagant praise, but they surely deserve jobs, health care and respect.
- Let’s eliminate unemployment for veterans. Find ways to help vets use in civilian life those skills for which they sacrificed so much.
- Let’s find jobs for the families members of those away serving – a group for whom unemployment way exceeds the national average.
- Let’s make sure those families have health insurance.
- Let’s take the stigma away from PTSD and make sure every veteran has access to good mental health care and learns good tools to manage stress.
- Let’s teach stress management in Basic Training and provide services to active duty personnel so they don’t have such a build up of stress before they come home.
- And let’s do more than SAY THANKS to those who serve and have served. Let’s GIVE THANKS.
This year, I celebrated Veterans’ Day by donating to two national groups. Whether or not you support current military policy, I hope you’ll join me by contributing to these or other veterans’ groups:
√ The Veterans of Foreign Wars is supporting veterans displaced by Hurricane Sandy (any extra funds go toward future emergencies): https://www.vfw.org/oms/donate.aspx.
√ American Women Veterans accepts donations on its website: http://americanwomenveterans.org.
I also suggest that one way to help our servicewomen and men is to contribute to community colleges, tutoring programs other resources that give young men and women career options. Let’s make our volunteer army one free from the “poverty draft.”
The US has had a volunteer army since 1973. People join the services for a variety of reasons. Some join from patriotic zeal. Others because they are natural warriors, whose personalities and skills make them well-suited to battle. Others join simply because their friends joined up. And too many enlist because they can’t afford college or trade school and their choice is between poverty, crime or the educational opportunities the military offers.
They take on a tough job and, for the most part, do it amazingly well. Some of them even perform heroic acts. Heroes are the ones who step up above and beyond the call of duty. They save lives at risk of their own when that is not required to get their job done. They deserve medals, whether they are given credit or not. But not everyone is willing, able or given the chance do great things. Most just do their jobs.
And here’s the thing: The jobs they do, especially overseas and especially with repeated enlistments, don’t often make them feel like heroes. Some of them kill, hurt or threaten enemy combatants. Some of them do that to civilians. Some repair engines, or cook or sit at a desk. Some of them guard prisoners. They slog through sand, search houses and backpacks, keep suspicious eyes on crowds, deliver supplies and dodge improvised land mines. They follow or violate rules. They gossip. They live.
One of the major causes of stress among veterans is that so much of that living is done with people they can’t trust. Included in that group are strangers, allies and even members of their own units. We know this to be true because one in five women in the military (20%) report that they have been sexually assaulted – usually by fellow troops. And we know even more women never report similar incidents. Ask these women if the men who attacked them are heroes.
Recent figures show that of about 1.5 million veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 20% (300,000) suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Many times more have post-traumatic stress that doesn’t rise to the level of a disorder but which still affects health and productivity. They don’t feel like heroes.
This year, for the first time, suicide was the leading cause of death for active duty military in Afghanistan. That’s worth repeating: From January to July, more of our military killed themselves than were killed by others. They didn’t feel like heroes.
Back home, another 20% figure: one in five suicides in the US is a veteran. They didn’t feel like heroes either. And the cognitive dissonance between how they feel about themselves and what people expect of them can be painful.
I know this, because I am a hypnotherapist who offers a sliding scale to returning vets. Veterans can benefit from hypnotherapy more than almost any other single group: hypnotherapists mostly focus on short-term therapy (3-9 sessions for most issues); we don’t diagnose, so there is no risk of a label that might affect a career, and we routinely use and teach clients tools that help with post-traumatic stress, anxiety, insomnia and IBS. And we know that more than 300,000 return veterans suffer from at least one of these.
The best Veterans’ Day gift would be a world in which we didn’t need to fight. Barring that, let’s at least give vets a world in which they don’t have to fight for what they need when they come home.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, please share this post with any veterans you know. They may contact me at (323) 478-1920 for a free consultation or to arrange a free, fun workshop introducing hypnotic tools to groups of 8-30.