By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
30 May 2011
As the country pauses and reflects in memory that Freedom is not Free we don’t always remember the costs. It is said everyone likes a good parade, but what happens when the music stops and crowds go home?
It is the veteran, not the Preacher, who gave us Freedom of Religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who gave us Freedom of the Press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who gave us Freedom of Speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who gave us Freedom of Assembly.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who gave us the Right to a Fair Trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who gave us the Right to Vote.
It is the veteran who served under the Flag to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States where you will find these Rights written. It is the veteran who guaranteed these Rights. Some veterans made it home alive, some didn’t. Some veterans gave all their tomorrows so we could have ours. Just being alive is not always enough.
Our young men and women who serve in the Armed Forces face more challenges than those who don’t serve. Those who serve in the Armed Forces are either preparing for war or fighting in one in addition to the normal everyday family and personal issues and problems they face. Those who serve in combat experience things many Americans won’t. Many of our combat troops are barely old enough to vote, but too young to serve in Congress.
A number of veterans now have missing arms and legs as a result of their war injuries and we have prosthetics to help them live a normal productive life.
There are a number of Veterans who suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is an anxiety disorder than can develop after a person witnesses a traumatic event. A traumatic event can take many forms such as a natural disaster, sexual abuse, rape, serious accident, captivity, or a terrorist attack such as 9/11, but for veterans, PTSD is most often related to combat or military exposure.
In wars prior to Vietnam, the disorder was referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and was not very well understood beyond the fact that it limited the soldier’s performance on the battlefield. Today, the disorder is more widely studied. We know that PTSD can lead to other mental health problems such as depression, social withdrawal and substance abuse.
Although the symptoms for individuals with PTSD can vary considerably, they generally fall into three categories:
Re-experience – Individuals with PTSD often experience recurrent and intrusive recollections of and/or nightmares about the stressful event. Some may experience flashbacks, hallucinations, or other vivid feelings of the event happening again. Others experience great psychological or physiological distress when certain things (objects, situations, etc.) remind them of the event.
Avoidance – Many with PTSD will persistently avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event. This can result in avoiding everything from thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the incident to activities, places, or people that cause them to recall the event. In others there may be a general lack of responsiveness signaled by an inability to recall aspects of the trauma, a decreased interest in formerly important activities, a feeling of detachment from others, a limited range of emotion, and/or feelings of hopelessness about the future.
Increased arousal – Symptoms in this area may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, becoming very alert or watchful, and/or jumpiness or being easily startled.
It is important to note that those with PTSD often use alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate. Individuals with this disorder may also be at an increased risk for suicide.
PTSD can be treated – There are a number of groups and organizations that can help anyone suffering from PTSD to recover. Veterans, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, first responders, crime victims and disaster relief workers are among those who are most often watched for signs of PTSD.
Just because the veteran, or others suffering from PTSD, is on your doorstep, it does not mean he or she is home. A change in geographic location does not guarantee a veteran is home. Veterans who seek out other veterans for help with their PTSD often hear the greeting: “Welcome Home”.
PTSD is a medical condition of a Mental Illness and one of the obstacles of healing a medical condition of a Mental Illness is the Stigma that goes with it. Vote NO to Stigma and help a Veteran heal.
An Ebenezer is the name given to memorial that was given to remind people of the help they received a few thousand years ago. We have many reminders of help we have been given, one being our Flag waving in a breeze and another is our veterans.
Help welcome home our veterans in anyway you can.
Rev. Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries of MA and AZ and the Founder of the Family Renewal Center (AZ) http://www.narrowpathministries.org and http://www.familyrenewalcenteraz.org