Posted by: joshjasper | November 4, 2011

Wounded Warriors

Last night I had the opportunity to present in a class for veterans at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.  I was asked to specifically address anger management.  Before the presentation I sat in my car thinking back to the days that I was in the Marine Corps.  I remembered feeling powerful, proud, and respected.  I had a purpose.  There were challenges like any job, but those challenges often proved to be easily overcome with strong leadership and decisiveness.  What I remember most though, is the camaraderie.  We were a band of brothers.  I may not have liked everyone, and everyone certainly didn’t like me at times, but in the end, there was never a question of allegiance.  I knew with absolute certainty that I was not alone.

I asked the young men to briefly introduce themselves before my presentation.  Most of the class had been in Iraq or Afghanistan at some point in time during their military careers.  I was in the presence of heroes.  They have given more for our country than most can ever understand or truly appreciate.

My objective last night was to create a space in which the members of the audience felt comfortable enough to share their experiences with anger, so that together, we could identify strategies to effectively cope with those feelings.  It was a courageous group.  They let me push.  I challenged them to explore beyond their feelings of anger.  I asked them to take a brief look at what lied beneath all of that rage.  What we found nearly brought me to me knees.

These men are drowning in depression and anxiety due to the aftermath of being in war, and now have nowhere to turn; no support.   Girlfriends, wives, friends and family members don’t understand why they can’t get close; why they struggle with social gatherings, and other seemingly normal activities.  They feel alone, unsupported, unappreciated, devalued, and very angry.  During our discussion last night many of the men shared a darker side that they have now; a side they try to suppress and forget about, but take active steps to ensure it is never revealed.  It is a scary place for them.  This dark place presents as anger, but when examined further, is pain.  This is a type of pain I know nothing of.  Their pain is excruciating and brought tears to my eyes as they shared.

These wounded warriors are trying to make sense of a world they feel does not understand them.  They spoke with tears in their eyes of the children they saw starving in the streets and the people bathing in the sewers and are now asked to adjust to a civilian lifestyle that does not want to know about those atrocities.  They were given orders to shoot to kill and to then return home as if nothing ever happened….as if they were not injured themselves.

Be clear, these men are not expecting ticker tape parades or pats on their backs for their service, but for them to give so much of themselves and to now be forgotten is unethical, if not criminal.  Where is the support system they deserve and so dearly need?  Something must change and change now before it is too late.

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