How to Help a Soldier Update
During June and July 2010, on average, one soldier is committing suicide per day. I am continually saddened by the traumatic effect of repeat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq on our soldiers, combined with the huge disconnect between their lives there and our lives here, where the biggest news item is an expensive gadget that drops phone calls if you hold it wrong.
We are not helpless when it comes to helping the soldier. Please read some ideas below on how to help, then scroll down to check out the links in my sidebar on Resources for Soldiers and their Families. I am adding a new link about “Operation Proper Exit,” that helps give closure to wounded warriors. The link is to one of the funding organizations, troopsfirstfoundation.org. The military, of course, is as concerned as we are. The Army recently added “Resiliency Training” to basic training courses.
“Resiliency” is the buzz word I first read about in civilian psychology books. It measures why one person is able to bounce back from heartache, while someone else has a more difficult time. I am including a link to a video about resiliency training. The link takes you to an archived issue of Military Officer magazine. From there, go to Page 49, and click on the box in the lower right corner to view the Army video on resiliency training. By the way, the female general speaking in the video was the flight surgeon who was taken prisoner by Iraq during the First Persian Gulf War.
I wish all my readers, friends, families, and soldiers lots of resiliency–and the hope that you rarely have to use it.
How to Help a Soldier
My well-meaning friends and family deluge me with e-mail forwards containing heart-wrenching photos of servicemen, urging me to pray for soldiers and to thank them for their service. My friends know I served in the Air Force for 19 years. Instead of being inspired by their trite messages, I am angered by them.
Forwarding a pretty email does not make the sender a patriot. It does not help our warriors and their families–they took those photos. They live with those images and the memories of much more gruesome scenes.
In this land of the everlasting TV shows, open coffee bars and fast-food joints, celebrity worship, clean hot water, and air conditioning, just how is a citizen supposed to show support to a person willing to die on one’s behalf?
Here are some ideas:
1) First, get a clue about what a warrior’s life is really like. If the word “warrior” makes you inhale, then you especially need to get a clue. I recommend the following texts:
- The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education by Craig M. Mullaney. An outstanding read that takes you into West Point, Oxford, Afghanistan, and back.
- As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard by journalist Christian Davenport. These stories are much more heart-wrenching than an email. The villain is not just the war, but the ignorance of our citizenry.
2) Second, be willing to sacrifice a little of your life for the returning soldier, beyond forwarding an email. Try one of these actual sacrifices instead:
- Volunteer at a Veteran’s Administration clinic or hospital.
- Volunteer to drive for the Disabled American Veterans, taking soldiers to appointments, etc.
- Volunteer to hang on telephone hold for a vet who needs to make an appointment.
- If you are a trained medical specialist, accept military insurance and even volunteer to work at a VA clinic—just beware that everything you do at the VA will be restrained by a lack of resources and an abundance of paperwork.
- Again, if you are a trained medical specialist, consider other models of providing help. The Soldiers Project is one example of a non-profit, non-government organization that provides free therapy to soldiers and their families.
- You can also volunteer or donate for Operation Mend. See links in my sidebar.
- Offer to baby-sit for someone whose spouse is deployed. Offer repeatedly.
- Be willing to cover the work for a National Guardsman so your employer will hold the Guardsman’s job for him or her.
- Hire a Guardsman, even though it means you will be without help when he or she deploys.
- Hire a returning Vet, even one who is dealing with TBI or PTSD. American Heros at Work provides videos, fact sheets, and phone consultation to help you understand these disorders and how to accommodate them.
- Donate to the Disabled American Veterans—I provide a link in my sidebar.
- Donate to The Soldiers Project–I provide a link in my sidebar.
- Ask a soldier how you can help or show your appreciation.
- If someone you know complains about getting help through the Veteran’s Administration, refer them to the links in the sidebar for some alternate resources.
- Leave a comment here, suggesting more ways to help.
- Copy the link to this blog entry, and email IT to your friends
Thank you for YOUR service here at home.