Posted by: smstrouse | November 11, 2010

War Is not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things

I have such a confusion of emotions on Veterans Day.  My father was a WWII veteran, and despite the differences he and I had over protesting the Vietnam war, I’ve come to value his service and that of others in the ‘Greatest Generation’.

I have also come to a better appreciation for those who are called to be warriors. I don’t claim to understand the military system or culture (and I admit that a lot of what I do know I don’t like). But I have learned to respect the integrity of many of the people who choose to serve their country in this way.

Having said all this, I need to say that I HATE WAR!  I hate this war that we’ve been in for the past decade and I am angry.  I have my own political views about the hows and whys that got us into this mess, but lately I’ve been mostly angry and frustrated about my own inability to do anything to stop it.

Last month I was privileged to be part of another Coming Home Project retreat (www.cominghomeproject.net). CHP is a program that offers support, education, and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, their families, and their service providers. This was my third retreat for service providers. Social workers, nurses, chaplains, therapists, and other care givers from all over the country came together to learn how to better take care of themselves in the midst of some extremely overwhelming and stressful conditions.

I came away from the 4-day retreat at the Mercy Center in Burlingame filled with such compassion for these care givers (some of whom are military personnel) who are suffering from compassion fatigue, burnout, depression, physical ailments, and secondary trauma. And I came away with an anger that I don’t know what to do with.

Where is the outrage over this war?  Where are the photographs of the coffins coming home? Where are the questions about the implications of what the Washing Post called ‘a shock wave of traumatic brain injuries’? Where is the national awareness of the effects of war on generations of men and women, their families, and our society?

Whether or not one supports or opposes the war, it is necessary to support those who are willing to fight it. But I am convinced that ‘Support the Troops’ means more than flag waving and uncritical acceptance of the fact of war.  Supporting the troops should mean a serious engagement with the whys and hows of this war – past and present. It should mean educating all of us of the needs of returning vets, especially those with PTSD and TBIs – and the implications for our churches.

I bought magazine subscriptions today from a door-to-door salesman and designated them as a gift for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Big deal. I want to stop the war. But ‘Truckin’ and ‘Car and Driver’ was the best I could do today. And I’m still angry.

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