Our lives can change in the blink of an eye: Driving down a street you may be involved in a tragic accident where someone you love dies and you are left alone wondering, "Why didn’t I die?"
You are home with your family when a tornado hits and even though you have taken all the steps to try and keep everyone safe, you lose family members. Again you ask yourself "Why did I survive? Why did they have to die?"
You are in combat and on patrol when you come under fire. You are the only survivor. The questions race through your head as to why you survived and they didn’t.
One of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the above-mentioned situations, is 'survivor guilt'. I always say, in my opinion and experience, that PTSD is a disease just like any other disease but one that can’t be seen. Nevertheless, it can become deadly. It causes depression, anxiety, confusion, paranoia, rage and it can lead to suicide. We see homeless veterans on the street. People walk past them, averting their eyes as they are too embarrassed to look at them. We see veterans who are using alcohol and drugs and once again we avert our eyes. Some people consider them an embarrassment.
A lot of civilians in society look at soldiers returning from combat and think to themselves that there aren't any signs of physical injury, so why do they have PTSD and why do they behave as they do? Our veterans are marginalized and cast into a category where people make comparisons and draw conclusions as to why some of their family members went to war and didn't return with PTSD, so why should they feel sympathy for other veterans?
We are all different and we don’t react the same way when a traumatic incident occurs. If we were all the same it would be so much easier to put people into the appropriate box and forget about them.
Did you know that every 63 minutes a veteran takes their own life? The sad part is that no one cares, except their immediate families, their Psychologists or their Doctor’s. When a movie star takes their own lives the whole world seems to cry and everyone seems to be caught up in a discussion about depression. What a shame the same is not done for our veterans. Our veterans don’t earn big bucks, they are not well known in the community, people don’t want their autographs, yet they are a very important part of society.
We need to remind each other that if our soldiers didn't win the battles during WWII, we would not have the privilege of living in a free country and have all the rights we do. The boy down the road would not be allowed to pick and choose what he wanted to do with his life. The girl dreaming of becoming a doctor may not have the right to do that. Can you see where this is going? We need to respect our veterans and say to them, "Thank you for your service, because if it wasn’t for your sacrifice we would not be living in a free society. "