November 11

GRATITUDE MONTH: DAY 11: “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”― Henry Ward Beecher

Because today is Veterans’ Day, I often use this quote. It fits my experience as a veteran. Today it is a story that I have been able to tell so many times that it is no longer painful or triggering for me. It is an ugly story of abuse and daily degradation and harassment I got to live during my time in the military.

Not an unusual story, since so much of the machine that is our military is structured the way it is. It is designed to de-humanize and de-individualize each member, by making men and women think and act as a group. This is not what the human being is designed to do, so it flies in the face of all of our natural instincts and breaks us down to re-structure us as a machine. Not good for anyone; in fact this is, in itself, a form of abuse and programming that is tantamount to brain-washing. Psychologists have worked for years in developing some of the tactics employed by the military to tear down these people and then restructure them as soldiers.

It goes against all of the things we are taught to be killers, no matter the motivation. We are trained in our social environment to abhor killing as a social, political, familial and religious/spiritual crime. Then we go into the military and get trained with a story about an “enemy” and how we need to kill them, and given the weapons and story to justify it. That is a big stretch. If we have anger and resentment that we can draw from, we are taught to channel that toward this “enemy.”

So, soldiers are given these things. Then they are sent to a war zone where they see horrors that are unimaginable to those who have not seen them. No movie can depict the experience; nor can any explanation, story or description speak to the horror and terror of combat. This breaks human beings into tiny pieces; emotionally, spiritually, mentally and permanently. No amount of normalcy will return to their hearts or minds.

My experience was in being stationed with these men upon their return from Vietnam. Without training, many of them were put into positions of authority and given power they had no way of handling well. They were not leaders; they were survivors of horror beyond imagining. Then given this power, they became abusers and perpetrators of more horror. That they were allowed to be in authority over young men and women with no recourse to redress these abuses was a widespread and horrible situation that has been taking place for hundreds of years.

Today I honor these broken people because my experience was that broken people do what has been done to them, or similar atrocities which are encountered in combat. I hold them in my heart and in my prayers with love and compassion, instead of the rage that was with me for so long. I have healed and my story allows me to do things like testify in a Congressional hearing about them. I can help others to heal because my work is done for this day. I was able to write thank you letters to these men for their treatment of me and understand that the strengths I possess today are a product of their abuses and ways of treating me and others that were broken also. I am not broken. I am whole and stronger for these experiences, although that does not make them permissible. It is my sincere prayer that no single person ever go into combat again. The blah-blah that we are “defending” our way of life is pure bullshit. As my BB tells me, we are here to “cease fighting everything and everyone.” I know this to be the only sacred path to walk.

Published by: Kelly

I am a therapist and counselor with long-term recovery from addictions and personal trauma. My writing reflects these experiences and the road I have traveled in 12-Step recovery settings, along with the work I have done for over 30 years in the field. My love of dolphins includes the stories of them being healers in places all over the world. I long to offer every broken spirit and body the experience of a healing hug. May my words and stories inform, uplift and delight your spirit and soothe your weary heart.

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