Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Magnificent Obsession, Vietnam Veterans

Vietnam Veterans Left Behind
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 30, 2017

Last day of Suicide Awareness Month and it was pretty much the same as all other years. Numbers only mattered to those seeking attention, but not seeking to change the conversation to helping them find something worth living for.

Most of the suicides are tied to PTSD because they felt hopelessness. They no longer believed one more day would be worth one more try.

About a year ago, a woman stood up during a group meeting. I had known her for many years. She said that there were 22 veterans a day killing themselves. Then she went on to say that she was going to do something about it.

I was sitting there, stunned by the slap on the face she had delivered to me after over three decades of actually doing the work to save lives.

It is almost as if she woke up one day and thought that she was the only one to attempt to change the outcome. Stunningly, she had not thought to learn one thing about anything other than the headline she latched onto.

There is a lot of that going on all over the country. Folks read a headline, but won't read the actual report the number came from. The woman told me that all I talk about are Vietnam veterans. Yep, never one bothered to read my site. 

While it is true that I do focus more on Vietnam Veterans, she didn't have a clue. So here is my confession about my magnificent obsession.

Thirty-five years ago, I fell in love with a Vietnam veteran. Thirty-three years ago today, I became his wife. Whatever I know about PTSD and our veterans, I learned because I loved him first.

Learning about why he was so different from my Dad and Uncles, all veterans, I discovered the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the library. I had to read clinical books with a dictionary. I did not set out to turn this into a lifetime vocation. I just wanted to know what I was getting into before I had fallen too deeply in love. The more I learned, the more I knew, there was no turning back.

These veteran are so different from any other generation. They came home to a nation where they were not welcomed or wanted. To families not wanting to hear their voices or ask a single question. They were told to "just get over it" and get on with their lives.

What they turned around and did, has changed the world. They fought for all the research on PTSD and made the government acknowledge this wounded of war all other generations had come home with, was in fact, their responsibility.

Because of this, civilians ended up reaping what healing they had begun. Mental Health centers, Crisis Intervention Teams, the list goes on, are due to their struggles during the 70's and 80's when no one wanted them around.

In 1978 the DAV commissioned a study called the Forgotten Warrior Project. Everything we know about combat and PTSD, came from what these veterans fought for, yet once again, they have been forgotten.

As the woman did not know anything she pretended to care about, the fact is, far too many have the same attitude.

Vietnam veterans, and other veterans over the age of 50, are 65% of the veterans committing suicide in this nation everyday, but you wouldn't know that if you listen to all the folks running around the country raising awareness, while these veterans are stunned to discover once again, they simply don't matter enough to count.

The truth is, far too many veterans don't really count because too many want to count what they cannot see. The CDC knows how many Americans commit suicide, or at least come close to the number, but they do not know how many are in fact, veterans. States like California and Illinois did not have military service on their death certificates, so they did not get counted. The CDC did not know they were there. They only knew those lives ended by suicide but not suicide after risking their lives for others.

I care about all veterans but my beloved Vietnam veterans are suffering still in silence. It isn't that they are not screaming for help. It is because the nation has once again turned deaf to what they want to tell.

As they face retirement, so many decades after coming home, raising families, working jobs and contributing to society, they are discovering PTSD had not left them unharmed. It was simply sleeping while they got too busy to notice.

Yet, what do all the suicide activist-stunt-publicity hawks do? They delude the public into thinking they are the ones to do something about it. The conversation in the Veterans community is that these people are repulsive. Worse, is when it is a veteran doing the awareness raising, because it is a betrayal by one of their own.

This is one of the first videos I did on PTSD because of what I learned from Vietnam veterans. After 35 years, they were first in my heart and they will never be last on my list!

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