Every like image is more crystalline sharp than the sharpest HD. They have shards of glass edges that pierce and slice through the most stoic of souls. No one is immune. No one gets off with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
And it's a worm with a high-pitched ringing whine that's constantly crawling around inside the brain. And it's got photographs and films with sound -- ear-splitting, deafening sound -- that it flashes bright across the backs of your eyes.
Between the blood-drawing and the first appointment, or between the appointment and the waiting in line to pick up the prescription there's waiting time at the VA med centers. While not a survey, there are some sentiments I've gathered that combat vets especially hate.
"Thank you for your service." It's hated because it's cheap, it's empty, and it's phony. You want to thank a combat vet, do something, even if it's cutting your "We need to send . . . to . . ." relative or associate down, as with a verbal scythe. You want to thank a vet, send a letter to your congressperson or to the president, letting her or him know how you feel: That you want to make fewer, not more veterans.
A parent should never greet a returning soldier with "I'm proud of you son." It's just possible he may not be at all proud of some of what he's seen and/or done, and, while he may not react violently to you, violence could be coursing along every synapse. The bottom line truth is that you don't know, and will probably never know what he or she is feeling. Don't push what could be buttons that don't want to be pushed.
Also, if there's one there, remove that insipid looped yellow ribbon from off the bumper. If there's a "A proud father of a Marine" or "My son's in the Army" bumper sticker on the vehicle . . . remove that as well, for the same reasons as above.
Never try to tell the combat vet about the trials and tribulations at the office, or those a best friend may be experiencing. In comparison, those are no more consequent nor noteworthy than were one to say they'd had "just the worst day you can imagine" because you'd stepped on an ant. That is, unless one wants to see what unbridled rage looks like. Think, in comparison . . .
It doesn't matter how negative the situation is, under no circumstances should anyone say to the combat vet, "I know you're having a tough time." That knowledge is beyond human comprehension or imagination. Same thing with "I understand."
And be fully prepared: The soldier or marine who was sent off will not be the one who returns. Nor, once thought is given, would anyone truly want someone to be a witness to or a participant in death and grotesque mutilation and be unaffected by the experience. That's not being a human, it's a pathological ticking time bomb. Even wanting, let alone expecting, him or her to be that same person is 100% selfish.
Finally, a couple questions.
For all who were or are unwilling to put themselves into the fray, by what strange and perverse line of reasoning do you presume entitlement to being protected by our military? Is it by the accident of birth? Being born here? Is that it?
Or is it because you pay taxes? (Think long and hard on what that implies.) In other words, if you can pay someone else to do what you will not, you're entitled to being defended and whomever the faceless they may be, they are obligated to kill another human being for you, to horribly disfigure another human being for you, or they should be pleased to be killed or disfigured . . . because you paid them?
Back when, when, as I said, I really didn't care. Which I didn't because, besides chalking off each day as one that would hopefully eventually get me to that promised day -- the one with the huge frame around it -- when I'd hop the bird across the pond and to safety, there wasn't much else to really care about, I paid women . . . for services some here might insist they'd never descend to. So good. Too good. So damned proud. Too damned proud. But how exactly is what I did any the least different -- like, essentially different, you know -- than what we've been disillusioning ourselves over via the "all volunteer military"?
Vets? They're human beings. And like all human beings, they're not super-human, they can break. If it's honoring them that you're after, think of those who are presently in this country's uniform as a human being, and of all our veterans as human beings, and treat them as such; at least as prudently and respectfully as you would your own precious heirlooms and money. Don't take what they did or who they are for granted. And don't waste what they're offering on foolish or thoughtless enterprises.
-- Ed Tubbs
(Sgt. E-5; RA 16 805 398)