This month, we marked the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the America’s centers of democracy and finance. These cowardly acts against the United States launched us into a decade of war and violence. Many of us have become fatigued with the seemingly endless war coverage and hunt for those responsible, and the scenes of soldiers returning home either dead or broken beyond repair.
As we catch occasional videos of soldiers reuniting with their families, I wonder how many of us have considered what that soldier went through to get to the moment. Even I, as a veteran, get busy and forget to remember the service and sacrifice of our nation’s soldiers. Do we stop and think of the intense conditions in which the soldier trained, the long hours of separation from family and friends, the feelings of isolation only the battlefield can bring? Conversely, those same experiences can forge strong ties among brothers-in-arms and when taken away due to injury or separation from service, it can have devastating effects.
A recent Blue Star Families’ survey underscores this point. The survey found that both active-duty service members and spouses reported feeling isolated from friends and family after separation from active duty, and 30 percent of those who reported having trauma symptoms or post-traumatic stress disorder said they did not seek treatment because they didn’t believe it would help.
That fact was never so poignant to me than this year reading several Facebook entries posted by veterans – pleas to reach out and connect with other veterans who shared similar experiences. They urged veterans not feel alone on the day that changed the world, and undoubtedly many of their lives in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, or New Dawn. Many of the men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have sustained life-changing injuries or lost friends on the battlefield.
Against great odds, many who experienced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fared well. They’ve recovered, transitioned, and have been resilient. Their ultimate transition to veteran status has been for the most part smooth much like mine. Yet, I vividly remember those feelings having served in Operations Deserts Shield, Storm, and Provide Comfort.
I was fortunate to find connections, many through Team Rubicon. My first disaster operation with the veteran-led organization felt like coming home. Sharing stories of military service, the structure and leadership, and the camaraderie all reminded me of my enlistment. I’m eager to serve on my next operation and watch other members experience their first, because it’s likely they won’t stop at one.
Help us respond to the next disaster and get on the team.