But I also want to call attention to something. In theory, we know the sacrifices these men and women make. In theory, we look at images of vets who have had to completely learn how to walk again, and we say we "understand". We see vets and current Soldiers who tell us they don't sleep, or they are learning to control a hair-trigger temper, and we say we support them.
Do we really get it, though? Do we really?
Sitting with a friend and his little girl, we start talking about the work he is doing to help vets around our area. He talks about how it is, to come home totally changed. "The person I was before Iraq-- that person's gone. He's not ever coming back." He looks at his daughter and I realize she has no idea who her father used to be, how he might have been. He has two other children, who are older and who probably knew both the "before" and "after" story of this man. Yet, he is one of the lucky ones, with family to support him and a determination to hold on.
We have a family friend who has gotten a recent cancer diagnosis. Is it something caused by the burn pits overseas? No way to know, right now. It took decades for us to admit that Agent Orange might have forever damaged our Vietnam vets and I am certain it will take at least that long to admit we're making our own troops sick.
There are changes within our own family, too. Concentration is much more difficult, and some things either take a little longer or they just don't happen. Movie night together on the couch is a thing of the past. We are very fortunate. He is healthy, we are happy, and we have had these days together. But we both realize he's not 100% the same man he was before he deployed the first time, let along the second and third times.
That person's gone. Not totally, not irrevocably, but there are things that aren't coming back and there are adjustments that are permanent.
The best way to take care of and care for our troops is to make sure that they aren't going to return home and be afraid for their jobs. We need to protect their healthcare and the services they have paid for so dearly. We need to let them know that their service is appreciated beyond just pretty words and yellow ribbons on posters. We need to know that their story doesn't end the day they are finally able to come home.
|Sweet Gabby, thank YOU.|