Veterans Aware: ‘Tis the season

Veterans box of chocolates | Composite image, St. George News

OPINION – As a Readjustment Counselor in government employ I’m blessed with getting to work with veterans whose “new normal” became being disabled through some variety of military-related traumatic experience.

There are a number of misadventures that fit the category of “service-connected military trauma.” Combat jumps right to mind, I’m sure, but that isn’t the only flavor available in Forrest Gump’s “Box of Military Chocolates”; were I to list those that veterans I have worked with have tasted, I’m certain you would think I was making stuff up.

I want to emphasize that I do feel blessed to be able to work with vets but even more blessed to work with their partners and spouses, their children, their parents and their siblings. You see, military trauma is not just the veterans’ problem; it is the whole family’s problem.

Trauma can be made much worse by uninformed family members, and trauma can be made much less difficult by informed family members.

Military trauma is particularly awful because it is reactive rather than responsive. Something happens that “triggers” the veteran and the veteran reacts psychosocially instantaneously; the veteran doesn’t decide what to do – mental and muscle memory takes over.

When the reaction to the triggering event is over, the veteran, now off automatic, is often shaken, embarrassed and ever so much more convinced of their “brokenness.” An informed support system can lessen this triggering and go a long way toward easing the discomfort of the veteran.

Most vets, after completing their service, don’t feel that they quite “fit” in the world anymore. When they leave the military, the work ethic is different, loyalty is situational rather than unconditional, and holding people accountable is like practicing voodoo.

Multiply the veteran’s discomfort a couple of times because their new normal is living with military-related trauma and you have people that would rather be anywhere other than around people who know they are “different.”

Traumatized veterans are people who have a great deal of difficulty relating to people who are not continually doing threat assessments and to people whose kids might ask them, “Did you ever kill anybody?”

‘Tis the season when folks gather with family en masse to share joy or to bitch about how bad things are or whatever lights the family up. It is a time to give thanks, gifts and to start a new year.

If you are a veteran, thank you for putting yourself through what you did.

If you are a veteran with service-connected disability, a little help from you about how you want others to be with you would give them a huge gift.

If you are close to any kind of vet, be sure to tell them, right in their face and right in their eye, “I love you, can I get you a piece of fruitcake?”

Happy Holidays Americans!

Bruce C. Solomon is a readjustment counselor with the St. George Vet Center. Opinions stated in this column are his and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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