Generations of American soldiers and other armed services veterans poured their blood, sweat and tears onto the battlefield, fighting for freedom, our country and the pursuit of what is right. Many sacrificed time with family, risked irreversible injury and possible death, all in the name of selflessness. They brought victory home, but at a personal cost. We know they fought the battle bravely, but are we aware of how many of those veterans are waging a silent war for months, even years after returning home?
A recent movie, American Sniper, brought the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the forefront again. Critics called it a “ glorification of war”; people said scenes depicted in the movie show shades of life “we shouldn’t have to witness.” I couldn’t disagree more. Why should civilian Americans reap the benefits of our soldiers’ courage, yet turn a blind eye to what soldiers face? We train them for war, arm them and send them into combat. They see the other side of humanity – the terrifying, bloodthirsty, violent side – so we don’t have to. Our warriors compartmentalize and attempt to mentally close themselves off from the horror they saw, so they can continue to fight and find resolution from conflict.
After tours of duty are over, our heroes return stateside, but they are not alone. Memories worthy of horror movies follow them home and can haunt them for years to come. Any one of the five senses can trigger nightmares, panic attacks and anxiety, all stemming from those dark memories.
Too many suffer in silence; too many are embarrassed to ask for help. We can’t send a person into hell and expect them to return unburned from the flames. As a nation, that is proud of our heroes, we need to step up and raise more awareness and offer more assistance for our soldiers who are now home but still struggling to return.
Project Healing Waters is a wonderful organization doing just that.
I am not a solider, but coming from a long line of them, I appreciate the valor a person demonstrates by choosing to serve his or her country. My husband and his business partner, own a fly-fishing business in Bryson City, N.C., and feel it is their duty to volunteer each year with the Asheville Chapter of Project Healing Waters. This past October, I tagged along and documented the healing through pictures.
Soldiers having served from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom participated in the October fly-fishing event. Some disabilities were evident, others invisible to the eye, but it was understood that every soldier had faced tragedy, loss and fear. The event with Project Healing Waters gave them a chance to escape the grim images from their past, go stand in or sit beside a cool river, cast a line and hope to catch Trout. They came for the camaraderie with fellow soldiers and veterans alike, the peace that nature brings, the excitement of landing a fish and fellowship over a good meal that followed a meaningful, light-hearted day.
I talked with several veterans who expressed how important gatherings (with fellow warriors) such as this are. Fly-fishing experience isn’t required, and fly-fishing guides, such as my husband, donate their time and gear so participants can focus on having a fun-filled, carefree day.
My hope is that more Americans become involved with organizations such as Project Healing Waters or Wounded Warrior Project and volunteer their time to a group of people who deserve not to be forgotten.