by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It has been a really long Memorial Day Week and we are truly exhausted.
For the last six days we have been privileged to be a part of bringing the large version (80%) Traveling Vietnam Wall to Fort Collins,Colorado. The city of Fort Collins put in its request back in 2003 to host this special event over Memorial Day Weekend. With extensive planning throughout the last six months, the Veterans Plaza Committee of Northern Colorado wondered how many people might visit the Wall and pay homage to all who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
Our answer came and all were humbled.
Thousands came daily. They came to pay their respects. They came to pray. And some came to simply heal a bit more. Seeing the names of classmates and friends lost in battle is sad indeed, but viewing the names of fallen comrades with whom you served is far more profound.
I watched as young children were educated about how all those names got on the structure. One small child innocently asked, “You mean they are all dead?” For this tiny boy it was hard to comprehend such a large number. For those who served it was even harder to comprehend and accept once again the huge price of war.
The Vietnam Wall is more than a memorial. It is a reminder to our nation of what we did wrong in welcoming our young men and women back after serving overseas. That lesson, I believe has been learned. However, there is so much further we need to grow. As our military returns from war, as a nation we need to make sure that they are comforted, healed, and given work that will allow them to have a solid future. And we need to make sure we are more aware of those veterans and families who have endured a great deal in the name of freedom. They are the silent minority and too many are finding it gut-wrenching hard to reintegrate back into their communities.
After observing the thousands of individuals who visited the Traveling Vietnam Wall these last many days, I truly believe we, as a community/nation, have the will to accomplish this task of human restoration.
What is hard, is taking the time during our very busy days to notice what needs to be done and then do it. Each small step we take moves all of us closer to a healthier and more humane nation.
God does truly bless America when we take the time to meet the needs of others.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Every so often we get asked a question about why past war veterans like those from World War II seemed not to suffer as greatly from Post-Traumatic Stress. Our answer is that “they did” but as in all past wars very few knew what they were experiencing or how to talk about such a silent wound. Who would understand their despair? Who would judge them for being inferior, less courageous? How could they talk about what they were suffering when there were no words/names to this despondency?
Once again, one of our friends sent us an article by Duane Jeffrey, an emeritus professor of biology at Brigham Young University. The article was titled, “Mental Malfunction in Mankind’s Wars. The author gave some staggering statistics about World War II veterans both American, British, and even German troops. It made me wonder, not that these veterans were troubled by Post-traumatic Stress, but that they somehow were able to move forward each day not ever knowing or understanding what was happening to them.
When we read about the various battles of any war, it is pretty obvious that the horror and devastation of what our young men and women went through was beyond mere words. Mr. Jeffrey’s writes, More than 1,393,000 U.S. military personnel were treated for psychiatric “breakdowns” in WWII. Forty percent of all medical discharges were for psychiatric reasons. That amounted to 504,000 troops formally discharged due to “psychiatric collapse.” The battle for Okinawa alone produced some 26,000 cases of psychiatric stress and care.
Teams of psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists tried to screen men headed for combat, to identify which would reach a breaking point and which would not. This proved fruitless: It soon turned out that anyone, everyone, had a breaking point.”
In addition, he went on to write, that during the battle of Guadalcanal more than 500 Marines were reduced to “sensitivity to sharp noises, periods of amnesia, tendency to get panicky, tense muscles, tremors, hands that shook. … Men were frequently close to tears or very short tempered.”
According to Dr. Jeffery’s research, a report in 1946 indicated that severe emotional trauma in infantry soldiers occurred “in the first 90 days of combat”. The article went on to state that “of those soldiers who survived 60 days of fighting on Normandy’s beaches and the hedgerows immediately inland from there, fully 98 percent… became psychiatric casualties”.
After reading this article, it made me pause to once again wonder how much our current military can take when being deployed for so many tours. Since we have known about these statistics for decades, why are we asking so few to continually sacrifice so much? Surely as a nation we can and should do better.
Over this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to not only thank every veteran you may know, but to pray for those and their families still serving.
And lest we forget, remember those who made the supreme sacrifice and never returned home.
by Janet & Tony Seahorn
Another Memorial Day. Another opportunity for a barbecue or a day off. Another few hours, perhaps, to sleep in and do absolutely nothing. Not a bad thing at all, yet not quite the purpose of the day.
What then is that purpose of a day to remember? By definition, Memorial means preserving the memory of a person or thing…something designed or adapted to preserve the memory of a person, an event, or anything belonging to past time… a record; (The Living Webster’s Dictionary, p. 595).
Originally it was a day set aside to commemorate and honor those individuals who died serving in war. I wonder, however, how many younger American’s know or understand this special day?
In preserving the reason for Memorial Day, what then should we remember? Perhaps it is not as important to reminisce about all of the bloodshed, awfulness, and destruction of war. More importantly it would serve us well to think of the characteristics of those who fought in any war, past and present. Characteristics such as courage, honor, selflessness. Characteristics such as humility, perseverance, and optimism. Perhaps another lesson of Memorial Day is to keep in mind the huge cost of war in hope those future generations will never have to pay such a price. You see, so many of our past and present military fought for precisely this reason. They went to war to keep not just their future sons and daughters safe, but all of America’s sons and daughter, grandsons, granddaughters…
Therefore, Memorials should not merely be a time for sadness, but also a time for joy and pride in the valor and goodness of spirit of our service men and women.
So this Memorial Day may each of us take time to say a prayer of gratitude to our military young and old and their families, and may each of us say with pride and vigor…
GOD BLESS AMERICA. THE LAND OF THE FREE
Remembering All Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country!
A special tribute to a Marine:
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Such a simple phrase stated on too few occasions by too few individuals.
During our travels we get opportunities to visit some special places that offer discounts or free admission to veterans. Most of the time people are pretty gracious. Then there are those situations where the “keeper of the gate” are, in my opinion, just plain ignorant on how to treat veterans.
We have heard stories over and over again on this topic. Some are quite sad, while others are pretty darn funny. On one recent occasion we were visiting a National Park. Tony was asked to show the gatekeeper his driver’s license along with other proof of identity. He had already given her his National Park’s Access Pass for Disabled Vets along with his VA Identification card with picture and signature. Animals with embedded ID’s aren’t scrutinized as rigidly. After all the ID confirmations, she could clearly see he had more than provided adequate identification, yet she still insisted on seeing his driver’s license and two other forms of identification with his signature on it.
This scenario that was absurdly comical. Yet, another part was perfectly annoying. After we jumped through the “gate keeper’s” hoops, we moved forward. Only later after driving several miles down the road did I think of the perfect reply. The next time (and there will be a next time) we’re asked to wiggle through silly bureaucratic hoops, when they are finished with their requests, I am going to respond kindly with the following:
You really meant to say: “Welcome Home and Thank You for Your Service.”
I must admit it will be a bit amusing to see the reaction.
Memorial Day is a time to give recognition and say a prayer of gratitude for all who have paid the supreme sacrifice for serving their country. We should never forget.
All our military personnel and veterans are our quiet role models and noble heroes.
These deserve our respect.
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.
by Janet J. Seahorn
You hear stories about the patriotism of small town USA. The way the community comes together as a single entity to honor its military – those individuals who have served our country. The events always include a bit of flag waving and back patting, “Thank you for your service”. This Memorial Day we had the honor to experience one such town. This is a town, Evanston, Wyoming, which far exceeded any story or past city we have visited.
It was early Sunday evening when we arrived in Evanston. Tony was asked to be the guest speaker at their annual Memorial Day event. We had just returned the day before from Europe. Both of us were more than a bit jet lagged, and I was secretly wishing I was sleeping in my comfy bed back home and wondering what the heck we were thinking when we first accepted the speaking engagement.
As we drove through the streets around town, we noticed flags flying from bridges, street corners, store shops, and of course homes. More flags than we have ever seen. The cemetery was filled with flags and brightly colored flower arrangements. A motorcycle bike rally made the atmosphere even more charged.
Then we passed a truly humbling sight, the town’s monuments set right in the center of the Court House and Civic Center. Monuments that went way back to the Civil War. The most interesting two tributes were to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. These were modeled after the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. What made them unique, however, was the black granite slabs held the names of every resident of the county who served in the war zone, not just the names of those who had died. The words carved into one stature said it well, “All gave some; some gave all”. Wow! We have never seen a town where every military person was acknowledged. You could trace the heritage of the community’s military generations from WW I forward. Many families had at least four or more last names engraved on each monument. So much sacrifice for a household to bear.
As we listened to the Memorial Day speeches, watched the presentation of flags honoring all military branches, including a flag for the POWs and the MIAs, heard the hallowed sounds of the bagpiper bellowing Amazing Grace, and viewed the solemn and appreciative faces of the people, it was a “lump in the throat” experience. Yes siree, Evanston, Wyoming is truly one of America’s most patriotic towns. It was obvious that such gratitude is a daily way of life, not merely a one day event. They live the words, God Bless America, and God Bless those who serve her mission of freedom and liberty for all.
Thank you for sharing your patriotic spirit with us and showing the world that honor, integrity, and flag waving are not political statements, but a way to demonstrate respect for the sacrifice given by the few, so that the many can live in a land of abundance and independence.