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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: December 16, 2004
Latest Update: December 16, 2004

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Truthout just sent out an editorial reprinted from the New York Times today that deals with the delicate balance of sanity and emotional health that many of our veterans return with. The original article is at A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict. By Scott Shane. New York Times. Backup.

I was profoundly struck by the questions these young veterans were asking about whether God would forgive them. In our haste to support peace, sometimes we fail to consider the message that our peace demonstrations send to those who have fought a terrible and relentless war in Iraq. To the extent that they agree with us that there should be peace and that the Iraq war is wrong, they are deprived of the support of believing absolutely that what they did was "right." Now, we know that all this is complex, and that there is no single "right" or "wrong," and that the authorities would not permit them to choose their actions in accord with their belief systems.

But when they're back home, finding the relative triviality of the workplace incapable of pushing these horrid thoughts from their present, they can't hold down a job or maintain a healthy relationship. They need our understanding. And now the government appears not to have the money to provide them with the counseling both they and we need for them to have. First, no armor. Then, a relentless and ruthless and desperate foe in a war declared over so long ago. And now, a refusal to hear the traumatic devastation to psyches that have never experienced such things.

So what can we do? Talk to everybody we know about returning veterans' needs. Make everybody aware of what the trauma is like. And then adopt a family and/or a returning soldier who needs support and understanding. Don't expect these young families to deal with these issues on their own in the midst of dominant discourse that says "he-men" never cry, in our Governor's world.

And maybe every peace movement out there needs to rethink some of its messages and make it a priority to let our young combat veterans know that God, whatever God, still loves them, as do we. The double-sided sword of enlightenment. As we protest for one good, we cause an inadvertent harm we didn't foresee. Sometimes progress sucks. You can quote me. jeanne

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