Musings: Welcoming Veterans Home
A port in Kuwait before we departed. From left to right: HM3(FMF) Grant Brown, LCPL Chris Nolan, CPL Donovan Stutsman
The return of our troops from Iraq heralds a new era of family bonding. Let the generation of family healing begin! While service members begin the arduous journey of reintegrating back into civilian life, wounded families who’ve been hit hard by recent financial losses are also navigating the waters of renewed alliance.
Tough times bond families closer out of necessity. We are genetically hard-wired for this. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the allegiance shared among members in a military unit, an extraordinarily protective “family” bond forged in the midst of crisis. How can we cultivate this kind of caring and dedication within our own families without the need for war or crisis?
Like all crises, our country’s economic downturn also contains a silver lining of opportunity. Strengthening family bonds restores not only the fabric of a society but also the health of its individuals. When people have less cash to spend, they stick closer to home simply because it costs less. They also tend to reach out and rely on family members more for financial or emotional support despite past grudges or differences of opinion. Healing occurs.
As the false façade of our gilded economy continues to unwind, we see the stark edges of greed and lack of respect that have come to characterize our culture. We hear it in the way people speak to each other: parents to children and children to parents, clerks to customers, entertainers to their audiences. We feel it in our gut as we realize the American taxpayer has been “had” by folks way richer than most of us and there’s nothing we can do except wait and see how bad the bleeding gets.
Ironically, our national trauma mirrors the situation of our thousands of returning military personnel. Shocked and confused, we are searching for a place we can feel safe and call home again amidst the loss of our wealth and faith in our government and economy. Against a more challenging backdrop, many service personnel will return physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually disabled from the combat, death and destruction they witnessed and/or participated in. They may feel unappreciated for their service and personal sacrifices while in active duty, particularly for those unable to make an easy or smooth transition back to civilian life. Finding a way back to living “normal life” can take years for a large percentage of veterans, and sadly, many never complete the journey, ending up homeless, broken or victims of suicide. Life coach Ingrid Dinter writes in this issue, “[Whether we agree with the agenda of a war or not], when…veterans don’t get the support, compassion, forgiveness and healing they deserve, this consciousness of suffering also impacts their society as a whole.”
Grant Brown is a Navy Hospital Corpsman who has deployed to Iraq and just completed a 5-year tour of active duty, already re-enlisting for another three. He is committed to continue to protect and serve the “family” of brothers in the Marine unit to which he was assigned as “Doc.” An unusually expressive and empathetic military man, Grant is a writer who also makes himself available to assist others in the Way of the Warrior at www.lightfighter.net, a mixed-bag online forum for soldiers, rescue personnel and warriors. “Some of it’s vulgar and violent, but it’s mainly a forum for sharing knowledge of all kinds, including healing stress, improving mindset, improving marksmanship and many other things.”
I asked Grant what we should know about helping veterans ease back into civilian life.
“The change of environment from over there to over here is shocking. In Iraq and Afghanistan, troops are scouring neighborhoods, kicking in doors; any person can be a potential enemy or suicide bomber. Complicated decisions must be made in a split second and every decision counts. It’s terrifying, painful, difficult and sometimes even extremely boring."
“When a service member returns home, the fear he was fighting through over there comes home with him. Home seems alien. Family are close strangers. Decisions are no longer of life and death importance but it’s not so easy to shut off that adrenaline and mindset. We’re just low man on the totem pole now. We need patience as we try to work through what we’ve experienced. We need an outlet mostly to talk with each other.”
He continued, “By all means thank veterans for their service, even if you don’t agree with the agenda of the war. They volunteered to serve our country and your rights. Be willing to be open-minded and listen; have patience for them to express their feelings and let it out. It is a life changing experience, for sure.
I asked Grant if he thought the war was worth it.
“I dislike watching the news and how the war is portrayed. All soldiers are trained to follow orders, good or bad. By enlisting for service, I was not advancing any political agenda for oil or democracy. I was over there serving my country, keeping my Marines and myself alive so we could once again enjoy the privilege of civilian life along with everyone. “I did see progressive change happen in Iraq. People, especially women, voted for the first time in their lives. Some walked miles through dangerous roads to reach the polls. But I was not there for any agenda. I was there to protect and serve my men. Maybe once I’m out of the military, I can work from the outside to change things I see needing change. The boots on the ground have a completely different experience of the situation than the people planning strategy back home.”
Facing an uncertain economic future while reintegrating many traumatized members back at home with their families provides rich opportunities for healing of America’s families. In her interview in this issue, Cherokee elder Dhyani Ywahoo remarks that, “We all have a spiritual responsibility, first to our family, to be kind and support the wisdom potential within one another, sharing food, warmth and shelter. We also have a spiritual responsibility to consider the ideals of our family, our clan, our nation.”
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change magazine. Visit www.spiritofchange.org.