War and the Soul

Today is Memorial Day in the US, a day we honor all Americans who have died in all wars. “Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers.” (Wikipedia)

There hasn’t been a time in history where war–on a small or large scale–was not raging somewhere on this earth. Rather than be ethnocentric and think of only American victims. I’d like to dedicate this post to both civilians and soldiers who have died in wars all over the world. The number is higher than I can ever imagine and grows each day.

Memorial Day Remembering

On Memorial Day, I am saddened to reflect on the toll war takes on our psyches, families, and communities. It seems like in this day and age, we should have evolved pass the point of needing to use physical violence to enforce a political intention. However competition still rules the world and until we let go of this need to win, it will continue.

What is shocking and disgraceful is that for every American soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by suicide. “An American solder dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began.” says Nicholas Kristof in his NY Times op ed “A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame.” We need to do something. Read my article about Soldiers and Suicide.

There are many programs helping soldiers adjust to life after witnessing the atrocities of war, but these have fallen short in addressing the magnitude of effects on the soul.

Honoring

Edward Tick wrote an amazing book, War and the Soul. He has been working with WWII veterans, refugees from war torn countries, Vietnam veterans, Gulf War veterans, and now Iraq and Afghanistan vets for over 40 years.

In my book, I explain that what we call Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is not an individual psychopathology, but has its roots in our community and spirituality and can only be healed by communal and spiritual means. War’s unrelenting destruction and suffering are too big to be healed by conventional methods. It belongs to all of us.” Edward Tick

He tells about how Native American cultures helped their warriors coming back from battle by taking on the guilt and fear as a community rather than allowing that huge burden to stay upon the individual. His program, Soldier’s Heart offers a genuine healing and homecoming from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by helping vets developing a new and honorable warrior identity supported by community.

Helping the Veterans

However, mostly our veterans have at their disposal overcrowded VA hospitals with extensive waiting lists. To lighten their load, our veterans hospitals requested mental health practitioners in private practice to register for Tricare- our countries military health insurance-so that veterans and families of veterans do not have to pay extra for our services–widening their access to quality care. Despite us complying and opening the door to veterans and their families, VA hospital rarely refer out. Perhaps they are fearful that we are inadequate in our skills. However, anything is better than our desperate children waiting 6 months and driving 3 hours for an appointment.

There will be 1 million veterans in the next five years. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. We have to change the way we help them. I will follow Ticks lead. Come at it from a holisitic point of view. Help them put the value back into their life, spiritually, emotionally, communally. Help them heal on deep levels.

“We enlist soldiers to protect us, but when they come home we don’t protect them.” Nicholas Kristof

How do you honor Memorial Day? 

34 thoughts on “War and the Soul”

  1. Thank you Jodi for this Post. As you said it applies to every soldier in the world, to all their families too.
    I know how hard war trauma can be for civilians but i know also how horrible it is for soldiers.
    It’s a great post. I wish they could all get the needed help, but they must first ask for it and accept it.
    Thank you, Much love <3
    nikky44 recently posted..Heart-SistersMy Profile

  2. Hi Jodi,

    I had no idea of this data. It is disgraceful that we as a country are not taking this task more seriously.

    Joe

  3. Jodi, Thank you for this consciousness-raising post, the best Memorial Day piece a blog-reader could hope to come across. I read the Nicholas Kristoff piece in the times and have been aware of this problem for a while. I am re-starting my therapy practice soon and will certainly look into Tricare. Thank you for that resource. I think in the NASW newsletter there are ads for programs that train LCSWs specifically to work with veterans and their families. I may go for it after reading this!
    Lisa W. Rosenberg recently posted..Wishing for (Medical) Weed in RetrospectMy Profile

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Great Lisa! I would like to do more but it would take tons of outreach. I did a significant amount a few years ago, but it went no where. No referrals, frustrating when you read story after story of lack and need. Right now I’m available if they come to me, but writing this has made me want to re-connect.

  4. Interesting facts and data Jodi!

    Yes indeed, such days are a wonderful way to remember the ones who have given their lives to the nation. However, very few of us are really able to read or learn about their lives, which you have beautifully done here.

    Thanks for sharing and a nice reminder for everyone to sit back and appreciate their efforts. 🙂

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Thanks Harleena!
      It was definitely heart felt, I could have went on but it already took me 2 hours to write!

  5. This is really important. Thank you for writing this post, Jodi. I read a story on the Huffington Post this morning that puts some numbers behind the rates of disability claims from returning soldiers and shows the massive increase since previous wars: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/iraq-afghanistan-veterans-disability-benefits_n_1549436.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=052812&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief.

    It is a giant problem and the system’s current resources are not equipped to handle it.
    Laura Zera (@laurazera) recently posted..The Fundamental Flaw of BootstrappingMy Profile

  6. Wow! I had no idea of this data but have felt for a long time we don’t do enough for our veterans. This blog makes it even more poignant than ever for me. Thank you for raising awareness and point out that something in this world has to change regarding our outlook on war and our treatment of those who served.
    Thank you Jodi!

  7. That is a tragedy that so many veterans are committing suicide. I remember NPR did a series on the lack of mental health care the VA provided to returning soldiers, and somehow, I thought things had improved. It is shameful that we don’t provide better services for those who went through so much for their country.

    Thank you for what you’re doing to help.

    Thank you, also, for reminding us of the casualties of war all over the world. Sometimes I despair that it will ever end. But I believe in a peace that can spread.
    Tina Barbour recently posted..Memorial Day and my father’s legacyMy Profile

  8. So many of us take this day as a day off from the usual grind, and don’t think about what it’s really all about. Thank you for the reminder. And what a frightening statistic: Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. How terribly sad.
    Monica recently posted..Do You Know Where Your Phone Is?My Profile

  9. Hi Jodi,

    Thanks for this insightful post, although the subject matter is sad. I couldn’t agree more – depression, anxiety and PTSD should definitely be treated holistically and addressed openly in a community. If this basic enabling environment is absent, people feel alone, judged, blame themselves, or feel the need to “hide” their “weaknesses” as opposed to being given the opportunity to heal. Thanks for writing this!
    LaGitane recently posted..Therapeutic yoga stretches for sciatica (with photos!)My Profile

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Yoga is great for returning soldiers. If you would like I can write a post for you about it! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Thanks Louise, how beautiful and meaningful your words are, they protect us, so we much protect them back. We have to be more than just thankful. We have to assume the responsibility.

  10. My Uncle Ted is a Vietnam Vet, Purple Heart twice over. He came home, not quite the same as when he left, and even after all these years, he is guarded. It’s not a good comparison, but I always think of the scene in A Few Good men, when Tom Cruise is going in for the kill and Jack Nicolson talks about how ‘the men’ on the line make our lives possible. I realize it was fiction, but the sentiment is true – there are real men and women standing on that line making it easier for us to sleep at night. Spot on, Jodi.
    Brenda recently posted..My Family is Just Right for MeMy Profile

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