When I was watching I Still Believe this morning, Gary Sinise’s character said, “You chose willingly to walk into the fire with her.” I cannot get that line out of my mind. It made me think of our Veterans and their families.
The United States has not used the draft since the Vietnam War. The men and women of today’s Armed Forces volunteered. They chose to enlist. They chose to serve. They chose, knowing that they may be called upon to fight. They chose to pick up a gun and possibly take another life. They willingly chose to walk into the fire.
The families of our Veteran’s chose to love and support them. Some supported them when they enlisted. They proudly wore shirts with the branch of service displayed on them. They hung the American flags outside of their homes. They chose to display bumper stickers that said I love My Sailor, Marine, Infantryman or other branch of the service. Others chose to marry while they were still serving or after they got out of the service. Most had no idea that they would end up walking into the fire.
What our Veterans didn’t choose, was to come home and face the nightmares that keep them from sleeping. They didn’t choose to carry with them a lifetime of guilt. They didn’t choose to carry with them sights, sounds and smell of war and death. They didn’t choose to have moments of anger, rage and fear. They didn’t choose to feel ashamed for what they were ordered to do. They didn’t choose to have their buddy die in their arms. They didn’t choose to have the woods shoot back at them. They didn’t choose to see people used as bombs. They didn’t choose to hear the sound of an IED trip just before their vehicle exploded and the feel of their flesh burning. They didn’t choose to come home mangled. That’s the fire they walk into.
They didn’t choose to have the very country that trained them to go to war, ignore them. They didn’t choose to have a healthcare system fail them due to low staff and not enough resources. They didn’t choose to have the very citizens that they served to protect look at them as less of a human. They didn’t choose to see the anger and violence in our streets. They didn’t choose to be stared at and whispered about because they were missing a limb or have scars on their faces. They didn’t choose to be given a pat on the back and told to have a good life by the service that they joined, to be left on their own. That’s the fire they walk into.
The families and loved ones of our Veterans with PTSD didn’t choose to sit and watch their Veteran slip into a dark place. They didn’t choose to see their loved one spend countless, sleepless nights. They didn’t choose to see the anger and rage. They didn’t choose to be called names by the very one who they love. They didn’t choose to stay up in fear that their loved one would take their own life. They didn’t choose to sit by a grave and be handed a flag with their children sitting next to them. They didn’t choose to have to watch every word they speak so not to set off a trigger. They didn’t choose to have to wait for a table at a restaurant so their Veteran could sit with their back to a wall and face the door. They didn’t choose to worry about their loved one, when they had enough and slipped off without a word. They didn’t choose to watch as the medication given to their veteran slowly sucked the life out of them. They didn’t choose not to feel love. That’s the fire they walk into.
As for me, I chose to willingly walk into the fire with My Veteran. I choose to love him. I choose to be by his side no matter what. I choose to find a way to always be there for him. I choose to join with my Veteran and his buddy to support other veterans and their families. I choose to make it my mission to be a voice and a support for all the Veterans and their families who are going through this. I choose not to stop until we find a solution and until no one takes their life due to PTSD. I choose to walk into the fire.