Monday, November 9, 2015

The Silent Trauma of Veterans

I guess it is no secret by now, to most people who know me, that "Patriotic Holidays" like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day affect me very differently than many other people. 

I am also fully aware of the fact that I am not alone in these feelings. I know many veterans who suffer from the same kind of feelings. Most of those I know do. 

Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have always been extremely hard for me due to the intense feelings of the injustice, sadness and tragedy that wars present that I carry with me to this day..……especially a war in which we should not have been involved in and where so many on each side died or suffered unnecessarily like in Vietnam of which I am a veteran. Many of us still have vivid visions of the situations we witnessed, the people and how it affected them on both sides……especially the children. 

The seemingly obligatory observation of these “Days of Remembrance” gives no consideration to the injustice and criminal aspects of war and what we, as military personnel, are asked to carry out and experience in the name of “Freedom”………which since WWII, could be more realistically described as “protecting Corporate interests abroad”……with the expense of such ventures then being passed on to the US taxpayers. And we should not forget that it is often the poor and underprivileged that fight these wars while the wealthy and privileged sit on their asses. And of course, let us not forget the massive Pentagon budget that hands over billions of dollars every year to projects by “private government contractors” related to war.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a former “General of the Armies” in Europe during WWII, who saw the horrors of war, warned the county in his famous farewell speech in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  (

“Perpetual War” is a recently coined term created by, ironically, those that practice it, that describes the current condition of international military involvement. The U. S. has not won a “war” since 1945, a fact which seems to validate this ominous claim. There is no profit in peace.

While many try to forget or ignore the reality of war and celebrate the historical illusion, I, and many other veterans of combat like me, have no choice and on these “Days of Remembrance” are reminded once again of the injustices that have been cast upon our military by a nation that most often chooses to look the other way. 

What makes it worse for many of us veterans is that we are silenced by society. We, as veterans, get shamed into never questioning it. If we are bold enough and choose to do so, we are branded as ‘Unpatriotic” or “Not supporting the troops”, which only adds to our PTSD. 

We all deal with these feelings in different ways. Alcohol. Drugs. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. Sadness. Relationship issues. Some are not affected openly or mask it using other methods, but, for most of us, it is all too real. 

Oh……I support the troops. Of course I do. I was one once. 

My problem is I don’t like them being used like expendable commodities by insensitive politicians and impersonal corporations as fodder and then, when they come home, dirty, broken and in need of help……they are ignored by the very same people who initially embraced them with public displays of support and then sent them off to do their dirty work. If you can afford to go to war, you can afford to take care of those who fought on your behalf when they return and ask for help. 

I am not anti-American. I am not anti-military. I am not anti-troops. I am anti-injustice.

So, before you question our comments, statements or attitudes, take time to realize that there are more perspectives than the one which you possess. If we don’t seem to embrace your comments about “Our Service”…..please understand that many of us are not particularly proud of what we did. If you really want to honor “Our Service”, support politicians who support programs for veterans by increasing funding instead of taking it away. 

Remembering living veterans who still suffer the horrors of war is just as important, if not more, as remembering those veterans who no longer do so. 

So……if we don’t share your enthusiasm, please understand and respect it. We have a very different aspect of what war really is. 

Skip Nelson
Vietnam 1967-68