Sunday, August 3, 2014

Conversations with the Old Vet - Are Veterans "Broken"?

A veteran asks: “Sure some of my family and friends say, ‘We love you and want to help,’ but do these feeling reflect a desire to reconcile the real me, the way I am now with all of my experiences, back into their lives? Or are they trying desperately to mold me back into what I was before deployment?”

Like most things in life, maybe the answer is “a little bit of both.” You need to understand from the start that this isn’t anything new. A catchy WWI song asked the question “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” No one had a satisfactory answer to that then, and they don’t now.

Even if you had deployed into a non-combat zone you would be changed by your experiences. Layer that with the intensity of combat and figure you’re going to change even more from the person you were – and remain – in the minds of your family and friends. Accept it. It happens and there’s not a damn thing you or they can do to reverse the process.

So, when friends and family fail to accomplish the patently impossible – to make you back into “how you used to be,” how many then reject you or give up on you as somehow “broken” or “unfit to re-integrate” into society? Or what might be even worse, label you as a “victim” deserving of their pity. Far too many. That goes to explain why vets usually seek out battle buddies or other vets to talk to. They get it. Civilians simply can’t.

Of course you’re going to feel isolated, frustrated, and alone – who wouldn’t? Even when surrounded by caring civilians who want to help but don’t know how. Worse, for the veteran this loneliness can quickly become guilt and self-blame that too often then becomes a desire to end the misery. This fact is the core of why suicide rates among combat veterans has reached a crisis point.

Listen up! The widespread lack of comprehension of your experiences and situation from the civilian world may come with an unspoken message that you have failed as a person in some way. After all, if they are “normal” and you don’t meet their expectations of that norm, then civilians around you won’t know what to say and thus begin to feel uncomfortable and their discomfort becomes “your” fault. Even if not outright rejected, you may be held at arm’s length.

Add into the mix the endless sources that feed into this myth of the “broken veteran:” Entertainment industry, politicians, self-appointed “experts,” commentators, medical professionals, even the government gets into the act.

There are the government agencies and medical professionals eager to reinforce such misperceptions. Post-traumatic stress is labeled a “disorder,” and has become an industry. It’s viewed as something that needs to be “cured” or somehow fixed. If on the other hand, as USMC General James “Mad Dog” Mattis says, “it’s really post-traumatic growth,” then maybe you’re stronger than you were previously and such strength is unrecognized. Maybe you are not even aware of it. But it’s there.

Veterans have been openly targeted as prime suspects for domestic terrorism and some politicians proclaim that you, the veteran, ought to be denied possession of weapons and should alert neighborhoods of your combat experience so that precautions can be taken to thwart anticipated hostile actions.

Bottom line is that both government and society have exacerbated the predictable sense of isolation that you may sometimes experience by falsely labeling all veterans as potential ticking time bombs and by drugging too many of you into insensibility.

It’s past time for someone to call “bullshit!” Many have rejected these practices and we at Valhalla Project are among them. We have seen veterans, perhaps just like you – both former service members and war zone civilian contractors – arrive here stressed to the max. Within days they have been able to slough off much of the tension, relax, get involved with projects outside of themselves, talk with their contemporaries, and develop a renewed sense of purpose, confidence, and self-worth.

If you are a post-9/11 combat vet or qualified war zone civilian and are troubled by a sense of isolation then consider a stay at Valhalla Project. We can’t promise anything other than a peaceful, secure environment, lots of meaningful projects to involve you, a place to relax in the outdoors, and an understanding ear from other combat veterans.
If you think you’re pretty squared away, then come down for a stay to help your fellow veterans and get a break from your everyday life.

You can stay for days, weeks, or months. Chow is good and provided as is lodging. You will be required to participate in daily activities and special projects. You will get outside and get dirty. You will learn about homesteading and independent living. Things like livestock and poultry, permaculture design and implementation, intensive growing techniques, and off-grid construction will stimulate you mentally and physically.

We have fun, too. Fishing, hunting in season, hiking, camping, dunks in the swimming hole, outdoor cooking, wildlife, and more are readily available.

Contact us by email or phone is you think you’d be interested. Be assured that at Valhalla you will not be isolated but in friendly company.
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The Valhalla Project needs your help and support
Just getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world. 

The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses, period. If you'd prefer to instead directly donate four new tractor tire, a truckload of straw bales, a pallet of dimension lumber, or even a few dozen 10' sheets of forest green tin roofing, that would be absolutely wonderful - yet perhaps polking the "Donate" button above to contribute $10, $20, 
$50 or even more might be a little easier and more practical!

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