Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Collateral Damage

(Photo – Matthew Sepi) At the conclusion of the Civil War, no media existed to report the post battle psychological meltdowns faced by certain survivors. At the conclusion of WWI, consensus chose to repress such stories, the “wacko-vet” stigma thwarting the ability of veterans to find employment. At the conclusion of WWII, actual news stayed quiet, but now we had cinema, and numerous films depicted insane soldiers reliving battles in hospitals and many others having nightmares. The fresh out of the war 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives won the Oscar for Best Picture. Real life amputee Harold Russell plays the role of Homer Parrish, who lost both hands in the war and resists the advances of his girlfriend, afraid to let her see what has happened to him. Russell won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Alcohol is the self-medication for PTSD and mental wounds that continue to bleed. The film shows the men drinking heavily. I have written repeatedly on the issue of veteran mental health and the utility of EMDR. On Sunday the NY Times launched a breakthrough piece, War Torn that extends the work done by CBS News to expand our understanding of unexplored terrain. What we are doing to our military today surpasses what occurred in Vietnam. We win the war and lose the peace. Our Veteran’s Administration lives in denial about the extent of the situation, and starved of resources it explores every angle to deny care, insisting that veterans had “pre-existing personality disorders.”

Soldiers with no criminal records, confident young men and women with families and children and jobs and churches, go to the Middle East, and different people return, heavy drinking, suicidal, nervous, and unwilling to be separated from their guns. Matthew Sepi, a battle hardened vet drinking to cope, bought a couple beers at a convenience store. Gang members approached him on the walk home and found themselves on the wrong end of an AK-47. He faces murder charges.

(Photo – Seth Strasberg is serving 22 to 36 years for murder) Human beings are more fragile than acknowledged. Pack animals like dogs and wolves, we are hard wired to care deeply about what others think of us and whether we are accepted. We crave strokes and approval. Soldiers muzzle weakness and funnel social forces into comradeship with their units. The love and strength of the bonds can exceed the strongest romance. A soldier returned from his two week leave to learn his entire unit was killed. He committed suicide. The VA suppressed story of the growing suicide epidemic slowly leaks into public consciousness.

The United States (or should I say Corporations?) of America is grinding its military down. Militarily, economically (got deficit?), intellectually (got education?), and physically (got health care?), every day our nation grows weaker as self-serving scorpions continue to sting the frog.

2 Comments:

Blogger Liza said...

"The Best Years of Our Lives" was a very progressive film for it's time. However, the role of Homer Parrish, the young man who lost his hands, was played by real life double amputee Harold Russell who won the "Best Supporting" Oscar that year.

1/15/2008 3:32 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks. I made the correction. That film was ahead of its time.

1/15/2008 3:52 PM  

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