We ALL return home from war changed forever. The emotions we experience when we return can often be as overwhelming as they are complex. For some, (I’d say initially for the majority of us) our emotions can be a potentially volatile mixture of excitement, joy, and relief, paired with fear, uncertainty, and confusion. If not governed appropriately, these emotions can leave us exposed and vulnerable; feeling like a rubix cube waiting to be solved.
Take a second and think about it - we know where we have been, but question where we are going. We know who we were, but we are now uncertain of who we are. These feelings are ok and most importantly, normal. But it is what we do with these emotions that makes the difference in the path we end up taking in life.
After the war, people can, and do, spend a lifetime trying to return to the person they once were before the war. However, the quicker we realize that’s not possible, the faster we will learn and grow. We must all learn how to own and embrace the changes we are experiencing—different is not necessarily always bad. Change is guaranteed in life, if the war hadn’t changed us something else would have. At least now we can say we have a piece of sweat equity in our nation.
It is ingrained in us from Day one that mediocrity is unacceptable—we are taught that mediocrity and complacency can kill. Based upon that train of thought, I propose this question: Why do we accept emotional mediocrity and compromised happiness at the risk of being exposed to our peers; we are human after all. It would be silly to think we would not be affected by war. But this is the culture we live in; this is the culture we must set out to change.
Why should we live a life incarcerated by the burdens we carry as a result of our fight for freedom? We shouldn’t. What kind of life is that to live? But how many casualties come as a result of our lack of acceptance and avoidance of our emotions in an attempt to maintain a false façade. We must confront this form of mediocrity with a ruthless vengeance and let our emotions know that accepting this new behavior under the guise of “the war didn’t changed me” or “I can't let others know” is a weaker action than running away in the middle of a fire fight.
The truth as I see it (both uncensored and academically unqualified) is that emotions can be scary, emotions can be overwhelming and lastly, feelings and emotions CAN'T be avoided. However it is sometimes easier to spend time trying to avoid our emotions rather than address them. But what's the true cost of our avoidance? Does fear of exposure and confronting reality cost us more than we are really willing to pay; do we truly know what the cost of avoiding our emotions is?
What do we have to do for us to realize and accept what happened as reality and not always as necessarily a bad thing!! The unknown might be a bad thing, but the more we peel back our onion, the less unknown there is. Uncertainty is unsettling, but does a need to have guaranteed results on the other side of uncertainty cripple any chance of growth? As veterans we have to break the silence and let our brothers and sisters know that we are not alone fighting this battle; we are all in this together—fighting with the same amount of strength, tenacity, and camaraderie. A different battle in the same war.