The warrior and those in the path of war want most to forget the horror and brutality of what they had witnessed or participated in. They want only to return to the world they knew before they were swept up in a misery so disturbing they find impossible to describe. But the one thing they fear more then their memories, is to be judged by those who were never baptized by fire. The ungrateful who would say their suffering was not adequate, their pain and anguish not sufficient.
America again finds itself watching another generation of its sons and daughters returning from far off wars. The country had learned from Vietnam, they would quickly fulfill its obligation of honoring its vets. Plastic ribbons would adorn cars and companies would place ads on TV or post signs “supporting out troops” on their factory doors. Politicians will stand next to our warriors basking in their air of honor and sacrifice. Of course the sacrifice would not be theirs. That would fall to the men and women who returned, now facing new lines of unemployment and a future of uncertainty. To a government that would quickly replace the tanks and trucks destroyed in battle while legions of bureaucrats will put the VA budget under the microscope in order to save a dime, or a pill. In some distant land, bridges need to be rebuilt, homes erected, towers of communications replaced. The boom of reconstruction pays handsome rewards for the barons of industry who never went in harms way.
And America will move on to the next sound bite of news events as it always had. Those who suffered the horrors of war would now be expected to pick up the pieces and move on. To those who drag their feet uncertain of what had just happened would be reminded to get on and get over it. Meanwhile the time bombs of insanity would start ticking away.
For those who were baptized by fire, their minds are forever changed. To expect they will come back unchanged is a fairy tale with no happy ending. The veteran will learn to stuff their fears, their nightmares, and their anger. But as the body grows older, shear willpower will no longer be enough. They would remember what the military had taught them well. To do whatever it takes to pull it together, to fight another day. Many would find medication with alcohol and drugs that had worked its magic before, when their mind and soul were raped everyday. Others would busy themselves with working deep into the night; for fear that they would spend time alone, waiting for the memories to come again. There would be those who would put on the shell of anger, keeping everyone at bay. Sons and daughters will wonder why their dad or mom is so angry, why they hate them?
And like a leech on their soul, it will slowly suck the hopes and dreams of these veterans an inch a day. By the time it engulfs them, they will face this monster called PTSD on their own. The war the soldier thought they had left behind had secretly returned home with them. It sucked the very life out of them so slowly they’d never see it, until everything was black. And their families and the communities they live in will suffer the sad results.
Those who love them suffer greatly from this war. Struggling alone to raise their family, to hold on to house and their own sanity, they’d constantly fear that their loved one might not come home. And if their warrior comes home, they hope against all odds they could just pick up life where it had left off. And in the end, none of them would understand what changed, why their lives were self destructing.
PTSD is a silent and deadly killer of hopes and dreams, sometimes taking decades before its full effects are recognized. And when their lives fall apart from divorce, addiction, suicide, anger, and isolation, they would find a very different country. A country, who long ago forgot their sacrifice, had already moved on to the next sound bite.
After the ribbons fall off the trees and the parades are a distant memory, America will once again ignore what it had set in motion. The walking wounded appear invisible to the eye, therefore it’s easy to ignore that the wound ever occurred. Those whose lives spill onto the streets are labeled alcoholics, addicts, and any number of socially defined misfits and malcontents. A new generation of POW’s would be created as the country cleaned up its broken warriors and sent them off to prison and jail, out of site, out of mind.
But wonder just awhile. Why have more Vietnam veterans died by suicide then those who are listed on the wall? Why is the divorce rate of war veterans three times that of those who never went? Why is their income thirty percent below their classmates who fought their war by watching it on CNN? Why has the high rate of suicide of soldiers fighting in our wars on terrorism alarmed the Pentagon? What about the Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans already found in the ranks of the homeless? Why is the alcoholism and addiction rate of those warriors suffering from PTSD seven to eight times the national average? Why?
The one person a veteran can count on is his fellow veteran, who “had his or her back” in the gravest of time. One who could finish his/her sentence, never question if their sacrifice was big enough, or tell them to get over something so big it invades their thoughts everyday. And that place is Dryhootch. The early veterans of this nations wars understood that the camaraderie of veterans would serve them in war, and in their lives after. They formed organizations around bars and taverns, helping each other get through a bad day, a terrible dream, or deal with a reoccurring memory only they could understand. But to the veteran suffering with PTSD comes high rates of alcoholism and addiction. With the knowledge of the need for camaraderie as a treatment for these horrors of war, and the destructive nature of alcohol and drugs was born the Dryhootch, a coffee house where veterans could meet, socialize, and seek treatment, peer to peer counseling, advise on how to apply for benefits, or find a company with a job who values their service.
So we ask the community for help, to help those who did what this country asked them to do, go in harms way. So take the money from your magnetic “support our troops” ribbon, or the money from a company putting that “support our troops” ad on TV; and put it where it will help a veteran survive today, to give them and their families hope of a tomorrow.
This band of brothers and sisters known as Dryhootch