While watching at Documentary today on Netflix titled World War II: The Last Heroes, I am listening to these men talking about what can only be described as living hell. Talking about the D-day campaign. One gentleman was talking about how when he got blown out of his boat into the water. Was disoriented then gained his bearing to find another man from his boat next to him. He swam over to the man and knew he was dead yet pulled him next to him. He said he kept telling his dead comrade to keep swimming, knowing that he was using him as a shield from the bullets and to help float. He started to cry, saying that this haunted him for 25 years and still affects him daily. He kept saying “I had to convince myself at the moment it was okay, and I did what I needed to do. They were the heroes; we were just the survivors.”
I tell you this story to one honor those men & women of the Greatest Generation, who are dying daily. We can learn a lot from these heroes on what it is to commit to a cause and mentally get through, what has been described as “hell on earth”, and get the job done while working for something bigger than yourself. These young men fought for their lives during the war and after fought for the mental lives from the terrible memories of the time. For years, silence was the answer for them, and this was how they coped with their issues. We can’t pretend this didn’t happen. We can’t allow these heroes of yesterday and today not get the ability to unload their baggage (stories) to ease some of the pain. The pain will never truly leave but we can help take some weight out of the bag and make them feel they are not alone. The feeling that you are the only one feeling this fear or sadness is not true. Although it isn’t true, these feelings lead to mental self-conversations and with the mental fatigue & depression, this conversation can lead to peril if not able to make that conversation turn productively positive.
Mental Strength for our troops returning home is critical and it is not something that you can give them in a pack or a onetime meeting. It is a process that needs to happen over time and with consistency. Mental Strength for these individuals with PTSD needs to focus on Self Worth, Positive Opportunities in front of them, Appreciation of service and understanding of the darkness, yet not allowing them to define them.
The fear, the pain, the regret, the anger and the self-blame are always going to be at the door, waiting to take over.It is the need to make sure that we have the strength to tell this unwanted guest, “Not today…Not in my house.I am worth it.”