Several years ago while walking around our City Park in Depoe Bay, Oregon, I stopped to look closely at our town’s VFW Veterans Memorial. When I looked closer, the name Ronald Allen Slane, Sp5, US Army 1967-68 was engraved on the plaque as an example to honor veterans of all wars. Ron was a medic who died during an ambush in Vietnam while trying to save another soldier…he didn’t even have a weapon to defend himself. “Ron Slane, Lincoln City, Oregon, volunteered to go to war as an army medic. He was a conscientious objector, but believed he had a duty to serve in some way.”
For me, and millions of kids born before and after WWII, Veterans Day, is very personal. Now, in retirement, I devote much of my spare time honoring veterans of all wars, and military families who serve too… I also honor my fellow veterans who served during the Vietnam War, and all the wars since then. We can never thank our veterans and their families enough for serving America while protecting the freedoms we enjoy each and every day of our lives. This is a debt that can never be paid back…
So, on this Veterans Day, go visit at least one veterans memorial close to home, and give thanks to all those who have served, who serve now, and will serve in the future, including 1st responders who keep us safe on the home front. Thank the families and loved ones who serve too, and who become the care givers to our heroes who return home with moral and physical injuries that often require a lifetime of healing.
“Holidays and family functions can make the PTSD sufferer feel like an outsider. They may feel uncomfortable joining in the celebration and, as a result, end up feeling alone and isolated. Although family members may try to include the person with PTSD, if the event brings back memories or makes him or her uncomfortable, being pushed into participating can make the feelings of isolation even more uncomfortable.”
I am now learning how to love the best time of the year, the Holiday Season! It is still a challenge at times, but knowing why I “hated Christmas” for most of my adult life has been very healing and constructive for me and my loved ones. Each and every year at Christmas time, my wife, Judy, dreaded my annual announcement, “I hate Christmas!” The joyous season was no joy for me starting around Thanksgiving, and it was a feeling never understood until researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. I usually did a pretty good job making others at home miserable during the Holiday Season. I even avoided contact with my kids who lived elsewhere during this time because it was so difficult to feel the joy that came so easily for others, so it seemed.
Not knowing why one has certain negative feelings that affect those close to you is not good anytime of the year. But with increased awareness of the symptoms of PTSD and the pain of moral injury, it is entirely possible to experience the joy of the Holiday Season. This will be the sixth year in a row that Judy nor others will hear, “I hate Christmas.” I feel more joy now than ever, and very blessed. The journey of healing is well in hand for me and others in my family. My heart is more open to the spiritual meaning of Christmas as a Christian. My only regret is not knowing and learning much earlier in life about moral injury and the symptoms of PTSD. Living and coping with the pain is terrible for the person affected, but even worse for those you love, who have to live with this negative behavior. This time of the year is special and it is when we should all have forgiveness in our hearts, lots of love to share, and a desire to make a difference for others. When you engage in making others happy, you are much happier!
The holidays are far more joyful for me these days since researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. I am now fully aware of the circumstances and symptoms of life after trauma. Although still a work in progress, it is so much easier to keep the pain of the past at a safe distance. I now look forward to the holidays with my family and friends. I engage with pleasure and joy with loved ones in all the preparations and celebrations rather than escape to my blanket fort of the past. I spend my time counting our blessings and the spiritual meaning of this season of joy. For me, helping others, focusing on loved ones, and things larger than myself creates new and positive memories during the holidays. The best part is knowing that my own outward expressions of happiness and joy are infectious and allow those close to me to experience a much happier season rather than being distracted.