“The students in the Dayton High School gym were on their feet. More than 300 of them were cheering and clapping with wild enthusiasm. It was the kind of reception usually reserved for winning sports teams.
But this ovation was for heroes who made their mark, not on the football field, but on the battlefield – men and women who went to war when they were nearly the same age as the students gathered here.
Some of the veterans from WW II made the trip down the gym’s center aisle in a wheelchair. But there were also veterans from the wars in Korea and Vietnam, clearly not accustomed to such a warm welcome.
The veterans came to take part in Living History Day, a full day of classes devoted to listening to their stories and honoring their courage.”
As a military child growing up following WWII and Korean War where my father served and sacrificed dearly, I didn’t understand that freedom wasn’t free.All we knew as kids was our home was full of anger, confusion, and dysfunction as a family living with a father who fought for the freedoms we enjoyed during all ofWWII.We didn’t feel or understand the meaning of freedom as kids because there was little or no talk about the subject.We observed and experienced only the angry behaviors and pain connected with life after war, but did not celebrate or know of the joy nor costs of freedom.Consequently, we grew up angry ourselves, but often served America too during the Vietnam era angry as we were.
I now know in my heart that if we had learned how to talk about America’s history of fighting to protect our freedoms and the sacrifices of all Americans we may have had a different perspective growing up.It is also clear to me that if we had known more about the emotional challenges of warriors and their families, we may have had a different perspective.But the reality of this time was to “suck it up” and “forget about it.”We now know of the mental health implications of war on warriors and their families.Although still challenging we can talk about moral injury and PTSD, including treatment strategies.
From my own experience the last couple years since becoming more aware and educated on the subject of trauma and after effects, that talking about this subject is by far the best approach to beginning the process of healing.Educating our children and young adults about the cost of freedom and the sacrifices of veterans and their families has been very effective and cathartic for me and countless others along the way.If we can get our veterans to participate more in schools as in the Dayton High School example, we could make significant incremental progress in the cause of awareness and help many more sufferers, families, and children start the journey of healing.We must get local communities more engaged in this way. It is my goal to support the awareness campaign through this blog and in public speaking at local venues to make a difference.I encourage other veterans and military family members to join me in “teaching kids that freedom isn’t free.”You can do this by sharing my blog with others, reading my book, and inviting me or other veterans and military family members to speak at your schools about “surviving and thriving” in life after war…