Connect the Dots
Our 3½ year old has accumulated quite a few coloring/activity books over the years. Now that he can count, a once overlooked activity, Connect the Dots, provides some amusement for him. Each dot is assigned a number so that if you follow the chronological order of dots you have a picture. It’s a seemingly rudimentary exercise, but one must wonder: are Americans connecting the dots when they consider the aftermath of this era of war?
We need not be surprised (though we are shocked) at the atrocities witnessed at the Walter Reed Medical Center. We need not be surprised that despite the attempts by some in Congress, the surge continues in Iraq. Under the current administration, ugly truths such as these surface regularly. Soldiers are deprived of their full leave to keep troop levels high; this is a military strategy, and as a civilian, I certainly will not be the one to question it. When I connect the dots, however, I do become concerned.
Connecting the dots makes me worry about the soldier that is finally done with his or her tour, the soldier that earns a few weeks of leave, the soldier with some coveted “down time.” What are we doing to assist the soldier with post-traumatic stress? Are our services adequate? Are our services specialized enough to deal with unique forms of PTSD? An article featured in the New York Times Magazine last month, “The Women's War” would suggest that, at least in some respects, our government could be doing a much better job caring for the mental well-being of our returning soldiers.
On Saturday evening, NPR's Debbie Elliott interviewed a Vietnam veteran from the Army’s First Cavalry Division. Listening to his story, we learn that a visit with his division in Iraq provided him with some “closure” to his own war experiences. He does not neglect to include some information about the stress that the American soldier in Iraq experiences daily. He even intimates that the experience of the Iraq War soldier is far more stressful than that of the Vietnam War soldier. This belief… coming from a veteran that has lived with PTSD for over 40 years.
The facts may not come to us in chronological order; however, if we do take the time to connect the dots, the picture is crystal clear.