On the radio, a report about soldiers at Fort Hood in a PTSD recovery program. They are in a yoga class - at its end, the choir of their voices comes together in a single OM. It's safe to say that few in this group ever thought they'd be in a yoga class.
But they have changed. The war changed them -- even once they were back home, they couldn't seem to come down from their constant state of alertness. If a door was closed, one said, I'd just kick it open. He showed the reporter a hole in the bottom of the door to his house. Yeah, you can see the boot marks down there. If you're holding your rifle at the ready, your hands aren't free. So you have to kick in the door to see who might be waiting for you behind it. Maybe it's a veiled woman and a few terrified children. Or maybe it's your own death. You just don't know. You never know, not anymore. You're driving to work and another car backfires ahead of you. You slam on the brakes and sit there in the middle of the road, while the guy behind you honks his horn and shakes his fist -- MOVE, YOU IDIOT!!!! you see him shouting in your rearview mirror. But you can't move. You feel like you may throw up. Shit, you say, again and again, as if it were the only word you knew. Shit. Shit. But you can't move. He drives around you and gives you the finger, his horn dying in the distance. A whole line of cars drives around you. Shit.
You don't know at the time that the not knowing will continue. You can't wait to get home and back to normal. You think about it all the time. But then you get back home and you can't seem to remember what normal was. The things you used to like fail to please you in the same way they used to. Sometimes you scare the people you love, and you hate that. Sometimes you scare yourself.
The reporter plays a brief recording of a firefight, and the chaotic horridness of it comes through the radio vividly enough to make even my civilian heart pound -- GO!! GO!!! GO!!! someone cries, amid a welter of shouts and exploding concrete, and the constant pop-pop of rifle shot. The treatment center plays these sounds for their young patients, who lived them as I never have, who are working on finding their own way back here. Now let's imagine you're walking away from it, says a quiet voice, Let's sit for a minute and feel this room we're in now, after feeling the place you were then. Then twenty minutes of meditation. There is massage, and reikki -- massage and reikki, for soldiers?! There is group therapy and individual counseling. It all seems to work -- several of those interviewed say that this center is the reason they're not crazy or dead.
But this center is one of only a few. And it can handle only a few dozen at a time. There are thousands more who need such a place.
Every week, still, we pray in our church for the ones who will not return -- seven or eight, in most weeks, their names known to us after they are released to their families in a moment that changes everything, forever. And every week we remember the ones who are still there, and the ones who have returned, and the civilian populations of the countries in which they serve. None of our soldiers return as they left. They are not the same. Whatever you think about the war, whether you think we should have gone over there or not, those young people went there on your behalf and mine. We sent them -- and it is not enough to say that I didn't do it personally, that I didn't agree. That's not the way a republic works -- in paying our taxes, in obeying our laws, in supporting our military, in many things, we agree in advance to let our leaders lead, knowing that some things they decide may not be what we would have decided if we were leading. This means we'll be standing behind some things with which we may not agree, maybe working for a course change at election time. A republic like ours is not an a la carte menu. It's prix fixe. And all of us are at the table.
Warm your heart, and maybe begin a new chapter in your life, with a look at this foundation dedicated to helping us help returning veterans and their families. http://www.welcomebackveterans.org/
Ah, me. It has been about a year since The Geranium Farm made its annual sheepish appeal for help in keeping the eMos free, the Internet running, the prayer candles burning and all the features so many people enjoy on the Farm afloat. (Disclosure: the Farm also pays Barbara Crafton's pension payments, which are considerably in arrears since the year in Italy. Oy.) If you find yourself able to make even a small donation, it will add up -- the eMos are read by more than 20,000 people in 68 countries, so if we all do even a little, the Farm will be fine. We much prefer to stump for donations to other causes besides ourselves, like ER&D or AIDSWALK, but our cupboard is just about bare and needs a refill, so this is necessary. Visit www.geraniumfarm.org and click on "Make a donation."