For many Memorial Day means sales, cookouts and swimming but for a growing segment of our population it is a day when the ghosts come out- the memories flood in, survivor guilt, and visits to forgotten graves. Memorial day is about the cost of war. Just like the Baby Boomers are associated with the Draft and the Vietnam War, as Millennials we have borne the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan- notably the longest war in American history. While the death count of American soldiers is not what it was in Vietnam (nor anything remotely close to the civilian count in Iraq and Afghanistan) the cost of the trauma of these wars is evident in the increasing diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans now have PTSD and that number is growing.
But rather than quote more statistics and try to explain the horrors of PTSD, let me share with you a poem off of one of the many PTSD survivor’s websites.
Have you stopped to thank a veteran today?
For the price of freedom they had to pay?
Did you gaze into those distant eyes?
Did you see the ghosts he can’t deny?
Did you think a soldier’s heart was made of steel?
Because he was trained to kill, he couldn’t feel?
Did you see the guilt written on his face,
For the loss of life he can’t replace?
Did you know he mourns the lives he couldn’t save,
And walks with comrades in their grave?
Did you remember the boy with innocence lost?
Do you really know war’s ultimate cost?
Have you felt the blast of artillery fire?
Do you have the courage it would require?
Have you stood in trenches consumed with fear?
Felt the enemies breath so very near?
Have you walked with God on a battleground?
Seen your brothers dead or dying all around?
Have you stopped to thank a vet today,
Or did you just turn and walk away?
From the pain he’ll carry for the rest of his life,
Did you consider his family, his children, his wife?
That watch him suffer in silence each and every day,
As he’s haunted by memories that don’t go away?
Did you care that the soldier is still pulling guard?
That his heart, mind, and soul will forever be scarred?
Do you know how he suffers from ptsd?
Or that our precious freedom is never free?
Do you care that he still hears the blood curdling screams?
Or that he returns to the war each night in his dreams?
Have you felt the sorrow of a combat vet?
Or would you rather just forget?
That war has pierced his hardened heart,
And torn this soldier all apart?
Would you rather our heroes just fade away?
Or will you stop to thank a vet today?
For more information on PTSD and ways that you can help, click here.
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