Anyone who wears a uniform knows the importance of this mantra. The test extends beyond deployment and the battlefield; the real test is back home when a brother or sister is physically or mentally injured. The most hurtful thing that veterans talk about is the feeling of being abandoned when they were down. This is often laid squarely on the chain of command and the system, sometimes that is the case but more often what really hurts them is that those they served alongside and those they
would have given their lives for, turn their backs on them. Maybe it is because their buddies are scared by words like PTSD or depression, too caught up in their own stuff, living the golden rule of suck it up, or afraid that an OSI might be contagious. The point is that injured members often feel alone in a supposed brotherhood. Where does our responsibility to each other end? Just leaving them to the system and washing our hands is not enough. Systems are systems, no matter where they exist – they are a lonely place. I remember being on my tech course with 12 other guys when my sister-in-law was killed in a terrible car accident. My request for a one day compassionate leave to attend the funeral with my wife was denied. I remember getting the looks from the other guys - everyone knows that look that makes you feel like an ant on the floor. One guy walked up to me, gave me a big bear hug and whispered: “I know it’s a tough for you, man.” That made all the difference because I was not alone or a weirdo because I was upset that someone close to me had died. That is the difference! It can be as easy as inviting someone for a coffee, giving them a shout after work, going for a run, to a game, a movie, a meal. If they do have to go to the medical system, offer to drive them, or go with them to talk to the supervisor. They may not say it but coming forward for help is often their toughest and loneliest day. If they mean something to you, don’t just leave them to the system. Are they worth the price of a coffee?
John J. Whelan
John J. Whelan, Ph.D., is the author of Going Crazy in the Green Machine, available now on FriesenPress.