Sunday, July 28, 2013

War fighters justified even when reason for war was not

War fighters justified even when reason for war was not
De-tour Combat PTSD Survivor's Guide
Kathie Costos
July 28, 2013

When humans do something unselfish, end up suffering for it afterwards, we tend to forget why we even tried. We may try to save a life but if they die, we blame ourselves for missing something we should have done. When we try to stop someone from committing suicide, it is even worse. We keep torturing ourselves believing we failed them. We can't see how many other factors contributed to the anguish that made them want to leave.

Doing something for a good reason with a bad outcome eats away at our core. Believe me, I know how that feels. When we act on what our heart tells us to do, end up feeling used and betrayed, we think it is our fault and the next time, we are not so willing to even try again.

For the men and women in the military it is even worse. They have a good reason to want to go into the military. Sometimes it is because someone they admire in their family served. Sometimes it is because they never thought of doing anything else. It is a good reason to want to serve the country and an even better reason when they want to save the lives of others.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the "moral injury" veterans must face to heal Combat PTSD. Like many before them, the reason they were sent pushes the reason they wanted to serve into the fog of war. This fog goes far beyond the battlefield. It makes it very hard to focus on the beginning when the end brought so much pain.

Here is yet another article on this "moral injury" that shows how people still do not understand this timeless wound.
Stafford: ‘Moral Injury’ follows troops home from war
Metro West
By Meg Stafford
Guest Columnist
Posted Jul 27, 2013

Suicide among veterans now outpaces combat death. This stunning fact is something to be taken seriously and understood if we are to arrest the trend.

Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who has studied and written extensively about this attributes the deep unrest to a condition he calls “Moral Injury.” He states that this type of injury (not illness) is sustained when “there has been a betrayal of what’s right by someone who holds legitimate authority in a high stakes situation.”

The distinction between Moral Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, another recognized result of time spent around combat, is that PTSD happens TO a soldier. It is not a stretch to imagine witnessing death or dismemberment of comrades being traumatizing. Human beings cannot simply switch off the emotions that arise from this, nor can they shut down the responses that have developed over a period of months as an absolute survival mechanism in an extraordinarily taxing environment.

Moral injury is about the inner conflict that surfaces as veterans examine the role they play in the killing that occurs, whether it is giving the order, relaying communication about where and when to drop bombs, or direct assault of another. This cannot be new. For as long as there have been wars, there must have been some individuals who question their responsibility and grappled with what is right and who defines that.
read more here

Achilles in Vietnam is one of the best books on Combat PTSD and the wound that lives within every man and women sent into combat. Everyone? Yes, everyone. No one ever comes back from combat the same way they entered it. All of them change. They carry it with them and taking off their uniform does not strip away what they went through.

Sometimes it is change in a good way but that depends on how they justify what they did. If they are emotionally mature and have a strong sense of self, they are able to retain the original intent and that overcomes any negative thoughts they have. They stop letting the reasons the war was begun and focus on what they contributed for the sake of the others they were with. In other words, the reasons were above their pay grade. Politicians start wars, congress comes up with the money or debt approval and brass comes up with the plans. The rest is up to the men and women sent to carry all of it out with what the chain of command has provided them with.

A good place to start is with the controversy centering on Vietnam. History has shown the reasons given for sending the troops there were not honorable however the actions of the war fighters were to still honored. 246 Vietnam War heroes earned Medal of Honor with 154 posthumously but while the war itself may have been wrong, the actions of these heroes did not become worth less. The lives of the fallen and the thousands of wounded were not less valuable just because some view their suffering as a waste. They no more wasted their lives than anyone else doing something for a good reason. They didn't risk their lives for any other reason than for the others they were with.

So that you have a better understanding of how rare these men and woman were 3,459 different individuals received the Medal of Honor out of millions in different wars. "Only one woman has received the Medal of Honor. Dr. Mary E. Walker was given the award by President Andrew Johnson on November 11, 1865 for her work as a Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon in a series of battles from First Bull Run in 1861 to the Battle of Atlanta in 1864."

The average age of the G.I. in 'Nam was 19 and 97% of Vietnam era vets were honorably discharged. Larry Smedley was an 18 year old Corporal when he earned the award with his life. Sammy Davis was only 21 and was a Private at the time of his actions to save the lives of others. Here are just a few more of the others.
List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Vietnam War

James Anderson Jr., Richard Anderson, John Baca, Donald Ballard, Jedh Barker, John Barnes III, Ted Belcher, Leslie Bellrichard, Michael R. Blanchfield, Hammett L. Bowen, Jr., Bruce W. Carter, Peter S. Connor, Thomas Creek, Larry Dahl, Rodney Davis, Emilio A. De La Garza, Jr., Douglas E. Dickey, Daniel Fernandez, Charles C. Fleek, Michael F. Folland, Paul H. Foster, Frank R. Fratellenico, Peter M. Guenette, Robert W. Hartsock, Frank A. Herda, Charles E. Hosking, Jr., James D. Howe, George Ingalls, Robert Jenkins, Ralph Johnson, Donald Johnston, Steven Karopczyc, Terry T. Kawamura, Allan Kellogg, Thomas Kinsman, Garfield Langhorn, Robert Law, Donald Long, Garry Miller, Frank Molnar, James Monroe, David Nash, Kenneth Olson, William Perkins Jr., Jimmy Phipps, Larry Pierce, Laszlo Rabel, Anund Roark, Ruppert L. Sargent, Ruppert L. Sargent, William Stout, Robert Stryker, John Warren Jr., Dale Wayrynen, Roy Wheat, Dewayne Williams, Alfred Wilson and Kenneth Worley covered explosive devices with their bodies to save others.

Vincent R. Capodanno a Chaplain, was killed while trying to rescue a wounded corpsman and Angelo Liteky, Chaplain who carried 20 wounded men from the battlefield under heavy fire who later renounced his medal of honor and Charles J. Watters chaplain who sacrificed himself to rescue several wounded men.

Raymond M. Clausen, Jr. went into a minefield to save others.
In every case they were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of others. Were their lives wasted? Were their lives worth any less because the reasons they had to go into combat were subjected to debate? No, their lives mattered to the men they were with almost as much as they mattered to their families back home.

This is how to justify what the men and women did no matter how worthy or unworthy the cause of war was.

The moral injury comes in many different forms. When you add in the reasons behind the war it adds to what they carry within them.

When they think about what they did and the actual reason they did it, it helps them heal.

The last part is forgiveness. Forgiving their opponents, knowing they are forgiven for whatever they need to be forgiven for and forgiving themselves is how to get out of the darkness. Until experts understand this, many more will suffer needlessly.

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