Left Justified : We all suffer from PTSD—Part 2

We’re all suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). At least that’s what veterans’ counselor Ray Parrish suggested at last week’s Coffee Talks.

He says all who saw the attacks on the Twin Towers, even if only on TV, are still a bit stunned, the same as a soldier who watches his companions blown away. Ray suggests we should all go through PTSD counseling. Luckily, we can treat ourselves just as the Vietnam veterans treated themselves. Instead of reacting angrily, we can listen to each other’s concerns. Try to treat each other with respect and, as the veterans do in self-help groups, keep our mouths shut while someone is talking. Then, have the courtesy to listen to each other.

This helped the Vietnam vets heal each other back when no one believed their cries for help. Severe PTSD involves nightmares and lack of sleep; self-medication, usually with alcohol or drugs; angry outbursts directed at loved ones; and the most distressed try to alleviate their pain through suicide.

We Americans who witnessed 9/11 on television have a mild form of PTSD. We might be more afraid, rely too heavily on our government’s pronouncements, and call each other “traitor” if we get into arguments.

On the other side of the spectrum stands the Iraq vet facing a third deployment. Soldier suicides are up, as are divorces, increased drug use and AWOL that turns into desertion. Funny thing, desertion relieves the soldier of his immediate stress, but then he/she is not eligible for VA benefits.

Mr. Parrish left booklets, “Veteran and Families’ Guide to Recovering from PTSD,” which are provided courtesy of the Purple Heart Service Foundation. For a free copy of this booklet, come to JustGoods, 201 Seventh St., Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The books will be in my office.

Ray also cautioned that military recruiters are under pressure to fill quotas. If you have kids in high school, they’ll constantly be approached to sign up for military service.

If you wonder why you’re getting “invites” to enlist in the armed forces, let me tell you: under the federal provisions of No Child Left Behind, every high school must send students’ addresses to local recruiters. Students will receive this junk mail until they sign up, die or turn 45.

Our outgoing school superintendent was a big supporter of the military, and he allowed unprecedented access to our schools by recruiters.

Parents can request the school take their child off the recruiters’ lists. That should stop unwanted solicitations.

I tell students they can tell military recruiters to “leave me alone.” If they persist in bothering you, go to a counselor AND the principal of your school and file a complaint. Military recruiters have no right to harass you. Even if you signed up under a delay program, you can change your mind.

Some recruiters make promises they can’t keep. I was recruited in 1969 and went to Vietnam, where I turned against war. I encourage students to look elsewhere for vocational training, college tuition, and a meaningful experience overseas. Find a good counselor who will get what you want. Investigate the Peace Corps, vocational training, special grants and colleges instead of the military, unless you really feel called.

I think there should be a draft. When this country goes to war, it should draft everyone. If the war is unpopular, wrong or, as in this case, stupid, then more people will protest. Thank God we still have our rights.

On the web, you can get more info at: www.unitedforpeace.org, look in the “ongoing campaigns” and find “counter recruitment.” If someone is interested in filing as a conscientious objector (just in case they do start the draft), contact Center on Conscience & War, 1830 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009-5706 or their Web site: www.centeronconscience.org.

This war, thanks to people like our present Congressman, will continue for a long time. More soldiers are needed, and, just like in Vietnam, the leaders are not going to admit a mistake. The soldiers will suffer. We need to help them get over the effects of war, until we ourselves get over the effects of 9/11.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!