Honoring More than the "Physically" Dead

Trey Smith

Today is the official day to remember the fallen servicemen and servicewomen who have given their lives while serving in our armed forces. While I certainly feel compassion for their families, my concern today is more for the forgotten dead -- those who return from war with a shattered heart or a dead spirit.

Some of these folks have outward manifestations of their injuries (e.g., disfigurement, a missing limb, a missing eye, etc.). Many returning soldiers, however, look as is if they've come out of the war unscathed. They look young and healthy.

But their appearance hides a sad truth. The person who patriotically marched off to war has died spiritually/emotionally and a different person -- hollow or tormented -- has returned in their place. Yes, it still looks like Bob or Debbie, but it no longer acts, thinks or behaves like the Bob or Debbie we once knew.

For these individuals Memorial Day must be a form of torture that few of us can even imagine. I would think it would publicly dredge up the phantoms they so desperately try to evade each and every day. Faces of dead comrades. Images of horrific carnage. Feelings of uncontrollable fear, anxiety and depression.

So, while there's nothing wrong with honoring those who didn't return at all, please don't forget those who did return physically, but not spiritually. One of the best ways we can each honor THEIR sacrifice is to push for greater funding for veteran mental health services.

For some, returning home is a punishment worse than death. These are the souls I honor today.

  • LT (unverified)

    As someone who has known veterans who were permanently disabled and those who might need employment or other services even decades after their military service, I hope this country can get to a place where helping actual veterans is deemed more worthwhile than just ceremony (important as that is) and symbolism like "support the troops" signs, stickers, car magnets.

  • Trey (unverified)

    LT, I couldn't agree more!

  • (Show?)

    I'd recommend reading Jarhead, a memoir of the first Gulf War written right here in Oregon. Soon to be a feature film, starring Jake Gyllenhall.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    So far, it looks like the people that are responsible for this illegal and immoral war really don't give a damn. Nothing new there when you think about how the war department tried to dodge responsibility for the consequences of Agent Orange in Vietnam and Gulf syndrome after the first Gulf war. Probably, that is a factor behind the declining enlistment rates.

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