To the editor:
Our troops are coming home! Just WHY they were sent there in the first place is a subject for discussion, but it's good to have them back. Let's hope they can find jobs in this perilous economy. The evidence suggests that MANY will return with emotional problems, some of them diagnosed with combat trauma (e.g. PTSD) but many undiagnosed. An example of this may be the recent story of Alan Sylte, the despondent Iraq War vet who was being discharged from the Wisconsin National Guard (Star Tribune December 21, 2011). Sylte shot a Lake City police officer following an altercation with a woman. There have already been many examples such as this in Minnesota, and there will be more, as the loyal and capable young men and women we've paid to defend (and kill for) our country come home to a lifestyle far different from what they've become accustomed to. Some will adjust quickly; for others, the memories will haunt them to their graves, as has happened with Vietnam, Korea and WWII vets.
Can anything be done to ease the nightmares, the anxiety, the sense of futility which results from spending years of your life "on edge", not knowing whether you shall be alive the next day? The Veterans Administration appears to be doing the best they can, but they will soon be overwhelmed by numbers - there is always money to build the machines, train the soldiers and fight the war, but money seems always lacking to care properly for the physically and emotionally wounded as they return from battle. The problem is made more difficult by the reluctance of our warriors to seek help for their emotional issues, lest they be considered weak by their comrades and superior officers. Those who ARE willing to reach out for treatment may find that the proper treatment can enable them to lead normal lives, and such treatment can be both gentle and rapid. I've had occasion to work with several vets over the past few years; here's a quick story of one. He had been discharged several years before, but was still sleeping with a big K-Bar Fighting knife under his bed. He couldn't find a job, probably because he scared the beejesus out of every potential employer. His wife warned the kids, "NEVER touch Daddy when he's sleeping!!" for when she had done so, he was out of his bed in an instant, had her up against the wall and nearly broken her neck before he realized what he was doing. One night he called me, "I gotta have help," so I worked with him for two hours using a special technique called EFT. A few weeks later, he stopped coming to our support meetings, but only because he now had a full time job! He still slept with the K-Bar knife in his bedroom, but now it was tacked up on his wall as a souvenir! A very big change in a very short time. He's pretty much back to normal. You would like him if you met him on the street or bought a part from him at his workplace.
Men and women of the military, it IS possible to resume a normal civilian life, if you are willing to risk, take courage in hand, and seek quality help. You do not need to live the rest of your life as though you were still in battle. Check your VA office, call a therapist. There is help available. You owe it to your family and loved ones.
Charles Reinert ND, PhD