Lessons We Could Have Learned from Vietnam

Lessons We Could Have Learned from Vietnam

May 3, 2010 – Back in February of 2007, the scandal of neglectat Walter Reed Army Medical Center found its way into our living rooms. We were all outraged and it wasn’t long before the Army created Warrior Transition Units (WTU’s) and the Marine Corps established the Wounded Warrior Regiment. Also created were the USAF program Palace HART that takes care of wounded airmen, and the Navy’s program, Safe Harbor, which takes care of wounded sailors.

These programs can be found at bases across the nation, their purpose being to support the wounded warrior and provide assistance until the warrior is ready to return to duty, or be successfully reestablished in civilian life.

Sounds like a great plan doesn’t it?It’s likely those individuals who worked hard to create these units had good intentions, but most of us know where that road often leads. I’m not sure when the government realized that an overwhelming number of people were coming back from combat with problems, but I guess they didn’t see the writing on the wall until it was too late. More often than not, we hear people saying, “We just didn’t know we were going to have so many injuries and we certainly didn’t know we were going to have some many people returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Why didn’t we know this was going to happen? How many times have you heard someone say, “We didn’t learn anything from Vietnam.” Sure we did! But we (as a nation) have apparently chosen to ignore the lessons learned and that, my friends, is even worse than ignorance! While our returning troops are no longer spit upon, they still return to a nation largely filled with ungrateful people who are not prepared to support them. If you pay close attention, those that are expressing gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our military families are almost always, in some way, related to those that have deployed during some conflict in our nation’s history.

Therefore, a warmer welcome for returning troops is an improvement, but it doesn’t prove we have learned all the lessons taught to us with regard to past conflicts. Today, we have countless wounded troops returning from combat. Thankfully, most of those with physical wounds are returning home to a hero’s welcome, but those returning with the invisible wounds such as TBI and PTSD find themselves returning to a nightmare far bigger than the one they left on the battlefield.

Our troops are expected to be tough and resilient. Admitting that one has emotional and/or psychological problems is viewed as a weakness, which is not one of the admired traits of a brave warrior. Once an individual shares of his personal struggle, he is met with ridicule and a lack of understanding and compassion. More often than not, the soldier’s career is over and the treatment he receives causes even more difficulty in his life.

Not only is he deemed “useless” by the military machine, he is also trapped in their system. After all, he signed on the dotted line and committed 4 or more years to service. With accountability being the objective most important to uphold, these men are now unable to leave the confines of the military and get proper care that will enable a recovery and the opportunity to move on with life. The military can’t send these men home because there’s a chance these men are “faking it”. They might be malingerers or wimps afraid to carry out their obligation. Please disregard the fact that these same men have served two, three, and even four combat tours. Please disregard that they have been in harm’s way on a daily basis for extended periods of time, and they have likely survived life threatening situations multiple times and most assuredly have seen someone injured or killed.

If you don’t know someone personally affected by the Invisible Wounds of War, it won’t be long before you do. Just about everyone knows someone that is serving. When these brave souls return home, many of them will suffer in silence if we don’t start looking for the signs and opening our arms to help them recover.

For those of us that have become a part of this battle on the home front, we need your help. PTSD and TBI not only affect the wounded warrior, but the lives of family and friends as well. At the very least, please educate yourself on the Invisible Wounds of War and start opening your hearts and your minds to how you can help the rest of us that are struggling each day to put one foot in front of the other. We can’t wait for the military or the government to take care of our returning troops. It’s up to all of us to step up and offer support…..after all, these sacrifices were made for me and for you.

It is our hope that this blog will share the truth, as it happens, and we can open the eyes of those in our little corner of the world, to the problems faced by our returning troops and their families. We have to start somewhere.

Originally posted by the author on fellednot.com.


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