Remembrance Day 2014

I find it difficult to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies.  It touches something so deep and primal in me that I weep uncontrollably.

I know where this pain originated.  My parents were both veterans of WWII. War doesn’t only touch the warriors.  In spite of their best efforts, veterans inadvertently bring pain and suffering home as a souvenir, spreading it to their children, who continue to pass it on like some dark plague.  Research shows that the impact of war continues for generations.  The Bible says the sins of the father will be visited on the sons for 5 to 6 generations.  This impact is described in a book called Thank You For Your Service.

Cold, hunger, and neglect characterized the pre verbal experiences of my first year of life in that London, England winter of 1945-46.  For several years, men, either in ‘civies’ or occasionally uniformed, would come in to our house, some marching in straight and tall, remnants of their training still apparent in their gait, some physically crippled, limping on canes or an artificial leg; all, no matter their stature, emotionally limping.

My parents and their fellow airmen were all so permanently psychologically wounded that any genuine enthusiasm for life was gone. For them, at its best, life was avoidance of anything emotionally deep. Such fun as there was, was false, forced.   At its worst, life for my parents was depression, self-isolation and numbness. Sad, poor role models for a young family, but better than those left without parents.

So it was that last Remembrance Day, I opted to watch the occasion in the comfort of my home. Enjoying the heat that only a wood stove can deliver, I stood with clients, at least one of whom was a first responder recovering from PTSD.

We followed the National ceremony, trembling to maintain our composure, as we watched the well-dressed politicians lay wreaths.  I’m sure that some of them felt it and were sincere.  Some of them. We could all, however, feel those for whom this was just another obligation.  In spite of the rhetoric about helping veterans,  just a short time later, Veterans Affairs offices were closed down, requests for help were being ignored and the suicides continued.

The hypocrisy of it all angered me.  These veterans have paid a price too high. And for what?   Yes, I do understand that some conflicts are necessary.  Some, but not all.  Gone are the days when we were naïve enough to believe the spin that we go to war to fight for freedom.   I can’t imagine that there are no other possible alternatives than war.  If we took greed, exploitation and the hidden global agendas out of the equation, would we really have to drop bombs on innocents?

I decided, while standing in front of that wood stove, that I would offer something to Veterans in 2014. In the long, cold winter of 2013-14, I spent time trying to contact various veterans, organizations, politicians and treatment centers, offering my now well-honed protocol for those suffering from PTSD.

You would think, that with so many suffering and so very many senseless suicides, that someone would have listened, someone would have had the compassion and authority to OK a ground breaking methodology to deal with the PTSD, rampant among our returning troops. You would be wrong.

Even when I offered to teach military personnel for free, I could find no one to listen, no one with the clout to endorse it.

I decided to work from the ground level.  With the help of trainee therapists, Eric Staffen and Joel Fecht, I organized a free afternoon of training in dealing with PTSD.  In spite of costly advertising that included radio, newspaper and poster coverage, we had only 5 attendees at the Alliston Legion that sunny July afternoon.   Only 1 was a veteran.  He was not there for a military issue.  We had been told by several people that the military is a closed shop.  We learned the hard way that this is indeed the truth.

Further, the military has a culture that precludes looking for help for psychological issues.  If you are physically impaired, they cut it off, take it out, stitch it up to get you ready for the next fight.  If you name a psychological issue such as PTSD as the problem, you are deemed unfit for service and dismissed, thus jeopardizing your career, benefits and pension.   In such a culture, personnel learn to play by the rules of the organization rather than attend to their own or their family’s psychological needs.  And so the suffering continues, the pain is passed on from generation after generation until an ever increasing number of us are devoid of joy or enthusiasm for life.

On Tuesday, I will watch the ceremony, and observe the two minutes of silence to pay my respects to those who have sacrificed their lives, physically or emotionally.  I will be genuinely grateful for their heroism and sacrifice.   I will watch the hypocrisy as the politicians make the most of the photo op and I will be angry.

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