I wrote a think piece on Chris Kyle, PTSD, and being a good neighbor some time ago. It’s time I shared my thoughts with you on this. I’m posting my think piece below for you to consider. Below this piece will be a thought from Albert Mohler that may alter your perspective. Resist the temptation to jump ahead…
“PTSD and American Culture…
Chris Kyle. Is there anyone that hasn’t heard his name recently? Many of you may have read his book, “American Sniper” and countless others have watched the movie or plan to. Chris Kyle’s story has been in the media and even contended by some.
Having read the book, replayed the audio book while I’m at the shop bench working, and having enjoyed the film at the box office, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I have listened to many discussions and read a myriad of forum posts, facebook rants, as well as listened to many radio programs regarding Kyle’s story and people’s reflection of his work. What bothers me most is that which I’m not hearing from anyone – the impact of stress on the human condition.
I’m not sure how to convey this without risking the perception of disrespect for our fallen brother. However, I feel as if I’d be dishonoring his last mission if I didn’t shed light on what he managed to overcome. PTSD. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the recurring item I gleaned from Kyle’s story. While many are debating his confirmed kill records, discussing equipment and tactics, and the Ventura foolishness, they’re skipping past the true light of a dark story. Chris Kyle managed to battle back from the abyss and helped others on the brink of the same fate avoid the paralysis, or worse, of PTSD.
I remember as a young boy watching a train miles away as I sat with my legs dangling off the bridge atop the tracks. For quite some time it was still and I could neither hear nor feel the train’s motion. Yet, I could see the light on the nose of the locomotive and knew it was headed straight for me. As time moved the light grew brighter and came closer. It wasn’t long before I could hear the noise of tracks and feel a rumble in the earth below me. As the locomotive bear down upon me, and rushed under my legs it was as if the very definition of fury had been unleashed. I’ll never forget it.
I take the same view of PTSD in our soldiers returning from war and conflict. We can look down the track and see it coming, but instead of preparing for it, I think we’re ignoring it. As a society and a culture, we have a record for failure in my observation with successful treatment of PTSD. What happens when the PTSD locomotive is right atop us? I submit it will be too late and we’ll lose people.
In my studies of the finest warriors over a dozen centuries, one trait comes to the surface for all of them. It doesn’t matter if they were tribes or organized soldiers, they were all well practiced. Today our American military is extremely efficient and successful at completing their mission, whatever that may be. The reason we’re so good at building and sustaining warriors is constant practice and deployment. We ask ordinary young men and women to join our military. We build and hone fierce machines of battle from this stock. We send them into battle with first rate tools for the job and technology the enemy rarely even understands. They complete their work, and we ask them to turn the switch off, head home, put on an orange vest, and operate a forklift at a commercial lumberyard and home improvement store. Does anyone really believe after a true warrior has been built that the same warrior can be deconstructed by the shuffling of some papers?
We’re relying on the armed forces, veteran’s hospitals, and small organizations to help with all the problems associated with war. At the risk of sounding snarky, when has government performed tasks like this exceedingly well? I don’t mean to suggest the VA isn’t worthy and helpful to many folks. I hear stories about caring people at many facilities. I hear stories to the contrary as well. My point is simple. If we wait for somebody else or some entity to deal with this upcoming epidemic, we’ll find ourselves in a real pickle. How tragic will it be for these fine Americans to survive war only to come home and lose their families, their jobs, or even their lives to PTSD?
I can’t help but ponder just what I can do as individual. What do these folks need? What makes a difference in their daily lives? What methods are helpful and which ones aren’t? I think about things like this all the time. Generally speaking, I’m pretty handy at coming up with answers to the questions I come across or provoke. As far as PTSD is concerned, I’m not sure I know what to say or what to do. I find myself unable to adequately answer the questions stemming from my thoughts and discussion.
Here in Iowa there are few SEAL teams. Few Rangers or Green Berets run around the hills of southern Iowa. I’ve found that door kickers aren’t the only sort impacted by PTSD. We’ve got plenty of men and women I’ve visited with that have been torn up with IEDs as 11B or 19D, medics, or even some guys transporting things as common as fuel or supplies. It seems with the theaters we’re operating in nobody is immune to the trauma present within the fog of war.
As I discuss my concerns with others, I see a startling trend in my conversations. Nearly all of the discussions I have with folks end with an expectation by people that government is somehow supposed to handle this. Many are not of military service, not that it matters. Some in the service don’t grasp the severity either. When a topic of conversation, nearly all my friends and neighbors assume the military is going to take care of this looming PTSD situation. They agree problem exist. They agree people are hurting. They agree my concerns are genuine. Unfortunately too few grasp that America isn’t ready to pitch in and help out. At least they aren’t today.
I’m not sure what to do, but in order to begin I think I need to be a decent man. I need to be the friend and neighbor that helps a guy stack his wood. I need to be the kind of person that says “Hey, the fish in my pond aren’t going to catch themselves. Want to grab a pole and head out back?” I need to be the kind of citizen that pitches in when I notice something needs done and requires attention. There’s no reason I can’t mention to a vet, “Our pastor is long winded, but his sermon is pretty darned good. Besides, the cinnamon rolls the gals make before Sunday Service rock. Want to go with us?” I have no idea what kind of impact I can make, but I’m determined to reach out in a genuine fashion to let these folks know people care. That’s got to be a start. If we can’t be decent and genuine friends, family, and neighbors to our veterans, what kind of country are we sustaining? I’m not sure what Chris Kyle would be telling us at the moment, but I have no doubt he’d encourage us to lend a hand to those we know need it, for our country is impoverished when we forget the errand.”
So with these thoughts, I ran across a briefing from Albert Mohler that brought some of these thoughts full circle for me. “If we did merely learn violence then perhaps we could unlearn it. But we didn’t merely learn it, we are it. The biblical worldview tells us that’s the problem. It can’t be resolved by any kind of economic progress or educational advancement. It can’t be resolved by moral improvement. It can only be resolved by atonement. It can only be resolved by the coming of the Prince of Peace to establish his kingdom that will know no end.”
When we apply a healthy dose of Christian Ethic to the think piece it transforms the nature and the response to those we need to embrace. Doesn’t it? It’s amazing how adding another layer can do that for us all. I didn’t add Mohler’s thoughts to demonize soldiers. That might be the take away some of you have. Rather, apply Christ to your neighbor as you do yourself, and enjoy the bounty. Rejoice friends…