Sunday, January 1, 2017

How Will This Year End for Veterans?

How Will 2017 End?
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
January 1, 2017

It may sound like a strange question on this first day of the New Year, but considering how last year ended, it is a reasonable question to ask. There are many uncertainties in life. Instead of recapping a year that has already happened, I am wondering what we will allow to happen this year.

Yesterday ended the year for me with going to my mailbox and finding gifts from my friend Vietnam veteran Gunny. He sent me a patch with my new road name for Semper Fidelis America, "Know Buddy" along with a memorial cross that says "I wear this cross for those who can't."

Then I filmed another friend, Jonnie, a Marine veteran, delivering an inspiring message about living with PTSD and healing so that this New Year could end differently than it ended for too many veterans.

This morning I went to Oviedo Presbyterian Church to listen to my friend, Rev. Karen Estes preach. As always, listening to her, witnessing her love of God and passion, I cried. She told the story of Artaban the 4th Magi arriving late in Bethlehem.
The story is an addition and expansion of the account of the Biblical Magi, recounted in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It tells about a "fourth" wise man (accepting the tradition that the Magi numbered three), a priest of the Magi named Artaban, one of the Medes from Persia. Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child - a sapphire, a ruby, and a "pearl of great price". However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet with the caravan of the other three wise men. Because he missed the caravan, and he can't cross the desert with only a horse, he is forced to sell one of his treasures in order to buy the camels and supplies necessary for the trip. He then commences his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the child, whose parents have fled to Egypt. He saves the life of a child at the price of another of his treasures.
And with the last jewel, he used it to help a woman being sold as a slave in order to pay the debt of her father. While some may look at the story and think about the horrors that happened that dark day when innocent babies were slaughtered, in the midst of all that evil, there were also witnesses to love when one of the many gave his gifts intended for God to help people in need.

As Christians, Rev. Estes reminded us, we are called, to not just witness love, but to respond with love and courage when we see evil, suffering and injustice around us. That is what Christ not only preached but by what He ended His life on earth with. He asked for His Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the Cross along with those who had abandoned Him.

Did you know that soldiers witnessed love in the midst of war? It happens all the time, no matter if they acknowledge it or not. The original idea to join the military came from a deep desire to serve even though they knew the hardships they would encounter. Even though they knew they would have to leave their families to risk their lives with strangers they would call "brother" bonded together by a love so deep they were willing to sacrifice themselves for. Even though they knew that should they come home wounded or scared by slashes to their soul, they were willing. They were willing, even though for decades, witnesses to their suffering without the care they were promised by the government deciding they needed to fight the battles failed to fulfill the promise to take care of them.

Yet they had reached out their hand to help, shed tears for those who had fallen and prayed for those wounded. No matter how much evil in battle they had to participate in, at the end of the day, had the enemy forces laid down their arms, they would have welcomed the end of battle. It was not motivated by evil they risked everything. It was motivated by a courageous love that had no limits.

We, as witnesses to that love, have not stood up against the injustice they face. 

We allow them to fight our nations battles and then fight the nation that sent them to war to have their wounds tended to. 

We allow folks to run around the country talking about how they die by their own hands yet never once utter the words of why they should live after surviving war.

We allow the Congress to avoid their responsibility in all of this when they do have jurisdiction over what the VA does or fails to do. If the VA fails to take care of veterans, the failure falls in the lap of members of Congress, yet it is us, allowing this to continue for decades, because we failed to hold the overseers accountable.

I have witnessed this all my life when my Dad had to fight for what he needed after his service and then, when my husband had to fight for what he needed. I have witnessed this with the over 27,000 posts on this site, countless emails and phone calls over the years, as more and more suffer from our silence.

I have witnessed miracles, great and small as much as I have witnessed innocent lives being destroyed by power-hungry, greedy men, not caring about who has to pay the price as long as they get what they want.

I have witnessed this in the veterans community as more and more wonder what good do push-ups do them as they are pushed away from families? What good does it do any of them for some to take walks when everyone they knew has walked away from them? What good does it do them to pray for hope when they are told that "God only gives us what we can handle" as if God did it to them?

No my friends, I am not the one they need. I've already proven that when after over 3 decades I am still screaming in this empty room with walls full of "accomplishments" yet the results are far worse than even I imaged they would ever become.

I have witnessed unlimited love when folks like Jonnie pushing past his own pain, his own reluctance to speak of this heartache he carries because others do not know the other cross he carries is that of hope and miracles of love that also showed up when he needed them the most.

I have witnessed veterans doing as Artaban did, giving all they had intended for God to be used in God's name because someone needed them. They are by "brothers" in Point Man International Ministries running around the country offering hope, showing veterans how to heal and then standing by their side when everyone else has walked away from them.

I have witnessed veterans on the brink of ending their battle, heal and then reach back to help other veterans out of their own darkness by shining their light.

Last year began with this,

PTSD New Year Take A Cup of Kindness Yet
So here's to a hopeful New Year when you understand PTSD does not mean you are weak but came from the strength of your core, just feeling things more than others. Know that you changed because of what you survived and as a survivor, you can change again to live a happier life.
May 2016 be the year when you remember the past without the bitterness and taste the kindness that is within your power.

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