Sometimes I ask myself the question ‘Why do I continue to read and write about PTSD?”
Inevitably, my answer comes. It’s often due to my anger over the way my life has been altered by the Vietnam War. It’s also because the society in which I live (with very few exceptions) has so little understanding of what combat vets and their families endure. There seems to be an abundance of apathy.
Chuck Dean, author of Nam Vet-Making Peace with Your Past, observes
“The war experience has affected our lives, our children’s lives, and the way families are being raised today. Four to five generations have already been affected by PTSD from Vietnam, but the family remains a weak second on the Veterans Administration’s list of priorities. Our problem is one of time lag. We haven’t been in combat for decades yet we still react with survival tactics. Our families are paying a heavy price for a war long gone.”
He’s right. The Vietnam War was long ago. But now we have our veterans from the Gulf War, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows how many other military operations are going on. How many more generations will be affected the way our lives have been?
Back in my time, we had the draft. Many American families had a son who was drafted and had to go fight and/or die in Vietnam. Today, since we have the volunteer army, the general public seems blissfully unaware of the high price being paid by those whose loved ones are doing the fighting in the name of our freedom.
I was just a teenager when the Vietnam War intruded on my “childhood. I fell in love with someone who was destined to go fight that war. That event has had long-lasting repurcussions on my life and so many millions of others. It is hard to live in a society, which as a whole, is hesitant to acknowledge the pain and trauma involved with the war experience. Especially when there is so much “denial” going on.
I used to speak out to my (civilian) friends about my experience. But then I noticed I’m usually met with a dumbfounded stare or I get the feeling they’d “rather not hear it.” It makes them uncomfortable.
Yes, I’m “only” a former wife of a Nam vet. But nineteen years of marriage to him and raising two children together, gives me the right to ‘write what I know.”
I suppose that is why I continue to write about my experience with PTSD, as well as the subject in general. It provides a release of my often “pent up” emotions and I hope that with my writing, I may affect others who are going through similar challenges.
It’s better than “punching a wall.” or “smashing someone in the face.” There have (and continue to be) those times when I want to wipe the “smugness” off of someone’s face, who seemingly has led a “charmed life” with little or no trauma. Those who have had “no skin in the game” or “walked the walk.”
This has been my experience. I know there are untold numbers of other ex-spouses of combat vets whose stories go untold. I find that very sad. Our experiences should count for something. My ongoing recovery demands that I express my feelings somewhere, somehow.
I hope there comes a day when the families of combat vets get the respect and recognition they deserve. That is, the ones who have provided loyalty and support for their loved ones.
Change is slow in coming. The VA failed me when I was in time of crisis. I wonder if the VA’s policies will ever be changed and they will be forced to truly take care of the families of our combat vets. This will not happen without an outcry from the general public. Will it ever happen?
I’m doubtful, but one has to hold onto a smidgen of hope. What else do we have?