REUTERS - "Newly diagnosed cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan surged 46.4 percent in 2007, bringing the
five-year total to more than 38,000, according to U.S. military data released on
The statistics, released by the Army, showed the number of new PTSD
cases formally diagnosed at U.S. military facilities climbed to 13,981 last year
from 9,549 in 2006."
This news item settled down around my head like a helmet today. These individuals who are spending months at a time away from their families, their friends, their homes, every comfort they possess, are returning home with physical injuries and limitations as well as mental and emotional scars. They will populate our communities in incredible numbers, scarred in ways most of us cannot imagine.
Somehow, though, despite the weight of this notion, my brain sought a light pathway through the dense grey. What if these soldiers coming home wounded in ways we can see and those we cannot are met by love and compassion? What if our culture, our society, was forced by the sheer numbers to learn how to make our neighborhoods a better place for them to live? What if, out of necessity, we adapted to the needs of those who require gentleness and kindness, accomodation and understanding? What if, as a collective, connected community we reached out and proactively created ways for these courageous individuals to feel safe? Maybe the stigma attached to mental trauma and illness diminished. Perhaps our first instincts shift from fighting to talking.
What if, regardless of who is "to blame," we all realize that it is in our best interest to come up with new methods of helping those around us feel as though they are part of the bigger whole? Instead of criticizing the military actions that led to these injuries and leaving the treatment to the government, what would happen if we started a dialogue that included the idea that we are all responsible for each other's well-being? Can we imagine what our lives would be like if we simply accepted the fact that these individuals have been deeply scarred by events beyond their own control and we all took one small step toward easing their return to their homes?