On the day my grandson graduated from GWU, we visited the Vietnam Memorial where, as we always did, we stopped to study for a moment the name "Gerald Pearlstein" who had been [a student] in my confirmation class at Temple Jeremiah. Gerald was a helicopter pilot on Rescue Duty when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire.
Survivors reported his desperate efforts to save the craft and give his men time enough to get out. Some did --- Gerald didn't and he died at age 20. Age 20. An officer in our Army and responsible for equipment costing multi-millions and, above all, responsible for the lives of his crew. At age 20.
I believe I was walking with Steve when I first remarked upon the irony of attending the graduation of young men and women ---average age 22--- just starting out into our world after visiting the memorial for another group of young people --- who had finished their journey into our world.
It was then that I was struck with the amazing resiliency of our human condition --- the ability to return from a traumatizing experience and adjust---- or re-adjust --- to the relatively peaceful environment in which we live. Thus was born the Kessler's Theory of Accelerated Maturation in which the normal linear maturation process is replaced by rapid imposition of responsibilities and this, in turn, creating a condition that makes the removal of these responsibilities a major problem.
Consider the rubber band which has a capability of being stretched to a given size. When that rubber band is over-stretched and kept in that condition for an extended period of time, it will never return to its original shape and may even lose some of its elasticity. So it seems to be with the human mind and this consequent ailment that we identify as Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome is the result of trying to find the way back to an original shape.
We speak of a growing fiscal deficit and the debt it will impose on future generations. I believe a greater debt will be to those who have served in wars that lack obvious and understandable purpose. We must find a way to lesson the pain for the returning veteran and his immediate family.
I ask of each of you a simple undertaking ---- be of those who don't let your normal shyness or reluctance to approach strangers stop you from saying "thank you" to one or more serviceman or veteran that you pass in the street or in a store or anywhere. Just say "thanks". It will do wonders for you.
Okay, it's PepGiraffe again.
The above email was a response and introduction to another email that you might have already received with the subject "When a Soldier comes home - to honor our men and women in the military." The original email was written by CPT Allison L. Crane, NR, MS. The email interspersed pictures of soldiers going about their (difficult and dangerous) daily lives with some reactions that a soldier might have when he or she returns home and finds civilians who have problems dealing with "regular" life. You can see the full thing if you click on the post title.
WHEN A SOLDIER COMES HOME
When a soldier comes home, he finds it hard....
...to listen to his son whine about being bored.
...to keep a straight face when people complain about potholes.
...to be tolerant of people who complain about the hassle of getting ready for work.
...to be understanding when a co-worker complains about a bad night's sleep.
...to be silent when people pray to God for a new car.
...to control his panic when his wife tells him he needs to drive slower.
...to be compassionate when a businessman expresses a fear of flying.
...to be grateful that he fights for freedom of speech.
...to keep from laughing when anxious parents say they're afraid to send their kids off to summer camp.
...to keep from ridiculing someone who complains about hot weather.
...to control his frustration when a colleague gripes about his coffee being cold.
...to remain calm when his daughter complains about having to walk the dog.
...to be civil to people who complain about their jobs.
...to just walk away when someone says they only get two weeks of vacation a year.
...to be happy for a friend's new hot tub.
...to be forgiving when someone says how hard it is to have a new baby in the house.
The only thing harder than being a Soldier...
Is loving one.
A gentle reminder to keep your life in perspective.
And when you meet one of our returning Soldiers, please remember what they've been through and show them compassionand tolerance.
The parts in green weren't in the email I received, but were in the original, so I added them.
Directly after receiving this email, I got an email on a different email account, asking me to give to the USO. So I did. In fact, there are a lot of organizations you can give to that support our troops either while they are away or after they return. These are just the ones I got from Charity Navigator.
Army Emergency Relief
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
Air Force Aid Society
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust
Fisher House Foundation
Homes for our Troops
One of the responses to the "Kessler Theory" email is as follows:
I think of Jerry often when thoughts of the Vietnam War come up or randomly when I hear of another loss in Iraq or Afghanistan, as he was in my Confirmation class. We were not particularly friends, but as we in our Confirmation class literally grew up together, there is and was an unspoken comradery. I do, by the way, often stop GI men and women in uniform and simply say "thank you for serving." Every one of them is appreciative.
Because of the extended times of service in Iraq and Afghanistan and because of multiple redeployments, our service-people are undergoing stresses unknown in Vietnam, though perhaps the nature of fighting a local population is familiar. I suggest that we each write to our Congress-people and ask for additional services for our returning Vets, for a streamlining of a cumbersome V.A. system, and -- dare I suggest -- a return of the draft so that all of our country serve and all become invested in ending useless engagements.
If you would like to follow that advice, get information on how to write congress here.