Monday, 27 May 2013

PTSD / Diary of a Vet's Wife and Memorial Day Memories

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation. And will continue until the end of time. This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet. It's not the way we'd like it to be - it is the way it is.         ~ Nancy MacMillan, author
Diligently, I queried agents for a twelve-month period before I made the decision to self-publish my memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To my disappointment most agents failed to reply, yet the rejections I did receive were polite and encouraging. Honestly, it seemed to me - no one was willing to touch the subject matter.
Was it too real?

 Memorial Day began in 1868 to honor all the military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and freedom. These brave warriors rest in peace not only on American soil, but approximately 125,000 are buried on foreign soil. American Battle Monument Cemeteries are located throughout the world (Belgium, France, Nova Scotia, England, Libya, Russia, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Mexico and Australia). 

The Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. is one of 146 National Cemeteries in the United States. It covers 624 acres where 267,000 flags fly in memory of each of these brave warriors on Memorial day.

Our country is split by war. Each of us longs to live in peace and harmony, but how can this be attained without welcoming terror to our shores with open arms? There is no easy answer.

For me, this holiday unlocks memories and the trauma of war that daunted my warrior and our family for too many years. Skeletons of battle dancing in the hallways with no way to exorcise them. 
Though wars still fester for power, I'm encouraged by the awareness and hope in growing numbers worldwide, and their passion and concern for peoples of all nations. Women and children are the most vulnerable. 

The war I lived through is behind me, but sadly thousands have stepped into my shoes. Where we differ? They're blessed to have what I never had - someone to reach out to who understands. Many dedicated organizations now exist, while new groups are surfacing nationwide, committed people who truly love and care for our warriors who gave so much, and their families. Selfless men and women are waiting for the phone call. 

My heartfelt cry to those who are struggling - "Please seek help immediately. Love and understanding are waiting, but you must take the first step."  (Contact information in previous blog)
 A love for tradition has never weakened a nation indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril. ” Winston Churchill

The post below is from October 3, 2011 - I felt it appropriate, if you're inclined to read on . . .
"The Moving Wall" - An Experience I Will Never Forget!
On Thursday, September 29, 2011, I had the priviledge of being in Santa Barbara attending my writing class on the same day "The Moving Wall" arrived at Chase Palm Park. Was this a coincidence?
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 218 of Santa Barbara, proudly honored the service and sacrifice of the 11 million men and women who served during the Vietnam War by bringing "The Moving Wall" to their fair city.
"When the soldiers came home from Vietnam, there were no parades, no celebrations.  So they built the Vietnam Memorial for themselves."         - General Wm. C. Westmoreland 
"The Moving Wall" is a replica of the original memorial on permanent display in Washington DC, where carved in granite are 58,226 names of brave Americans honored and remembered forever. We honor the courageous service of America's 2.8 million Vietnam Veterans - especially the 58,226 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country for the enduring cause of freedom.
I pulled into the parking lot, took a ticket from the meter and found an empty parking space closest to the Memorial, though I still had a distance to walk. I sat in the car lost in thought. Questions filled my head. This was the closest I've come to "it" since the day I buried my husband's ashes in Houston National Cemetery, after which they folded his flag and presented it to me.  Could I do this with grace and dignity like Jacqueline Kennedy, or would I melt into a blubbering puddle?
I followed a sidewalk to the street and headed toward the monument. A photographer toting a heavy camera passed by. Towering palms scattered the patchy green grass. The sight of The Wall off in the distance, the sky and the ocean it's backdrop, enfolded me like a loving grandparent I'd never met. I felt timid, yet I knew I belonged . . .
They walk as if on hallowed ground. They touch the stone. They speak with the dead. They come to mourn and to remember, memory mixing with grief, making an old ritual new, creating in this time another timeless moment.   - 25th Anniversary Commemorative
In the distance, the long narrow black wall appeared to rise out of the ground where people stood like toy soldiers set in groups of two or three. Flags of many countries rose high against the hazy afternoon sky, furling in unison. A large khaki tent stood guard off to the right. As I drew near, the black panels began to reveal meticulous white lettering. Snapping flags overhead muffled the soft murmurs of family members, some clutching framed  photographs to their chest, as they stood solemnly talking with counselors near The Wall.
It was surreal . . . until it hit me.
The avalanche of names washed over me. Dear God, so many names. Too many names. Each called from the wall. I could hardly breathe. 58,226 names including 8 women. The Vietnam war. They all died in battle. This was all that was left of these warriors who were part of us, never again to feel the sun on their faces, or taste the salty air from an ocean breeze.
A train echoed from afar. A lean-muscled man riding a bicycle pulled up. His fluorescent green jacket and trimmed white beard reflect off the shiny black wall like a mirror. He straddled the bike as his eyes eagerly searched the names. One woman wandered a distance from the wall. Maybe fearful as I was to get too close. Afraid of being swallowed alive by the reality before us.
The Wall elicits a physical response. It has inspired visitors to represent their own grief, loss, rage, and despair. Contributing their private representations to public space they cross a boundary between the private and the public, the nation and the citizen, powerfully claiming the memorial as their own.   - 25th Anniversary Commemorative
The Vietnam war. So many names. So many died in battle. Yet many more returned home wounded to the core still fighting the battle. Their never-ending battle. Day and night the mortars still blaze, the screams, the cries still echo in the din. These returning soldiers who found themselves shunned and abandoned by a great many civilians who were not able to separate the war from the warrior.
As a writer, how can I not say what I feel? How my heart still aches for my husband . . . and all the names on this wall. It aches for all the people who loved and cherished the people who were these names, and feel the pain they still bare. I reached out and touched one name . . . Leon B Smith II in raised white letters. My heart hurt. Then I noticed a sign that read, "Do Not Touch the Wall."
I spent a large part of the afternoon sitting on the grass, a distance from the wall, journaling, taking pictures and thinking. How can these families heal? I wrote a book which allowed me to put my heart on paper. I may have found healing . . . but I can never forget.
Occasionally, I'd wander up to the wall and walk its length looking at the volumes of names which loving parents carefully chose for their precious newborn as they envisioned the bright future their baby would grow into.
And never dreaming the name they chose would one day stand as part of the history of our country.
Lesson Learned . . . or my two cents
The human heart can be shattered in a million pieces . . . yet you still must go on living.