“…my step Granddad survived the Bataan Death March and never quite came back…everyone called it “shell shocked” back then.”
-Quote from, “Single Harness”
There has always been a unique fascination with the phrase, “fog of war.” First coined by military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, the term has found its way into pop culture. And though it is legitimately experienced by only a few, all instinctively understand it. In fact, one can see it practically portrayed in many a war scene from the comfort of their own home. But for those who know it more intimately, they know it all too well.
“War”, according to Robert McNamara, “…is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend.” The awfulness of many a war is truly incomprehensible. And if the “fog of war” is difficult to bear in war, then how much more difficult is the aftermath of the incomprehensible when all is done, the air is still, and nothing but the sound of quietness is heard. The psychological aftermath of war has the ability to inextricably strip the mind bare and leave the soldier always searching for something he cannot find. Many an American warrior has come home only to never find it the same again. As the song in Les Miserables so eloquently and painfully exclaims, “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.”
In our modern era we have put a medical diagnosis to this post war “shell shock.” Doctors call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Though the PTSD diagnosis is used for other traumatic events beside war, it was first recognized in the war veteran. PTSD is of course nothing new. Soldiers have long dealt with the emptiness that comes from the post war quietness. It is just simply a new label. But at the same time, it serves as a reminder. A reminder that the cost to our warriors reaches far beyond the battlefield and into their homes, relationships, and other areas of life. Of course this is not to say that all soldiers come home with massive phycological wounds. Because they don’t. But for more mysterious reasons some struggle more than others. But the point is this- every soldier that comes home, brings with them more than they took. And they will deal with those things for the entirety of their lives. Let us be careful to take care of those (and their families) who have sacrificed so much so that we ultimately could be free.
As we wrap up 2 wars and seemingly start another, times of relative peace seem far off. And our warriors likely will once again be called upon to right the world. But as they come home, let us be sure and help them. Help them find the home they left so we wouldn’t have to.