Thank You Veterans
More than ten years ago I received my first referral from Veterans Affairs to work with one of the bravest people I have ever met. Since then, I have been blessed to have more than two dozen Veterans on my caseload
There are two reasons that I am thankful for this experience. First of all, I would never have had the courage that these men and women demonstrated during their military service and want to give back as much as possible. Secondly, I have learned so much from them.
On November 11th we will once again honour those who have served. My hope is that today I can share a perspective that will cause you to think differently about Remembrance Day and those who fought so that we can enjoy freedom.
- False expectations – Many individuals decide to join the military thinking that by donning a uniform they will get paid to learn new skills and travel to interesting places. They have no way of knowing what lies ahead. Often they are sent on tours of duty that result in living and working away from loved ones for long periods of time. Those who serve in war-torn countries usually experience physical and mental trauma that just won’t go away even when they return home.
- Withdrawal – Many of the military personnel who have come to me state that they have never shared any of their experiences with others. They don’t want to upset family and don’t want to appear weak. Unfortunately, their silence means that they suffer alone without any professional help.
- Adjustments – The military culture conditions individuals to do so many things that just don’t work well when they return home. They may sleep lightly, have nightmares or flashbacks, respond impulsively with aggression, turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, drive erratically or show a lack of trust in people and society.
- Accessing services – In order to be eligible for assessment and treatment, Veterans need to be honest about their suffering and then find a specialist who can provide accurate diagnoses and treatment options. This can be a scary experience, especially for those are trained to present as strong people who don’t cry or express their needs. When they do step through the doors of a physician and a psychologist who understand the military culture and the Veterans Affairs system, new doors of hope will open for them as well as opportunities for both financial and medical services.
- Waiting – We have all faced times when we have been frustrated while waiting to see specialists or have paperwork approved. Veterans frequently spend years trying to hide their injuries and then, when they finally decide to deal with them, get stuck in a system that doesn’t respond as quickly as they would like. Some minimize their situations and think that they won’t be eligible for anything so don’t even try.
- Relief – Finally, like an old-fashioned water pump that you have to prime, things improve a bit. Diagnoses are accepted, financial awards are processed, medical and personal or training programs are offered. I know that I am biased but one of the most important things that Veterans Affairs can put in place is biweekly psychological therapy sessions for the life of the Veteran.
I know that we all make sacrifices in our lives and often have scars from our experiences so please don’t think that I am negating what has happened to you.
I just wanted to share a little insight into the world of a Veteran that most people never see or understand.
When you meet a Veteran remember to say “Thanks for your service” to acknowledge what s/he has done to make your life better.
That’s what Remembrance Day is really all about. Sadly, it is only one day in a year!