Do War Wounded Troops Need Healing or Do They Need to Heal Civilians?
In July 2009, the Army’s surgeon general released a report of an epidemiological consultation at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, CO that essentially concluded that, from a public health viewpoint, combat is a contagion. Substance abuse, violence, domestic violence, drunk driving, rape, and murder were all linked as symptoms of the contagion, which increased significantly with repeated tour of duties to the most significant combat areas. If traditional therapy and medications were not effective in treating the contagion, what could?
There is no question that troops return from war different. What is it, though, that would cause some to engage in destructive behavior such as substance abuse, violence, domestic violence, drunk driving, rape, and even murder while others silently battle their invisible war wounds?
Sebastian Junger writes in War:
"To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull...When men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at -- they'd have to be deranged -- it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by rather you can trust the other person with your life.”
Perhaps, as a society we have a much greater epidemic on our hands. Have we lost the ability to appreciate life, take nothing for granted, and be trustworthy enough to save a life? Moreover, does that saving even have to be literal? In a world where we cannot leave out doors and windows unlocked, that we are warned to stay away from certain areas for our safety, where aiding a stranger could cost you your life, we have obviously roamed far away from sampratyaya, perfect faith, trust, or belief.
The Yoga Sutras teach us the ethical precepts of the yamas: ahimsa (nonviolence), truthfulness (satya), nonstealing (asteya), chasity (brahmacarya), and noncovetousness (aparigraha). Imagine a world where society lives by these precepts. Would troops returning “home” feel such a great disconnect and a desire to return to fight for something that matters? Certainly there are plenty of needs here worth fighting yet have we become so jaded, calloused, and concerned about celebrities and professional athletes that we forget that those who need to know they matter, are loved and are worthy are often not so far away from us?
Perhaps, at the root, it is because most people no longer believe that they are worthy, lovable, or matter. Citta vritti nirodhah, pure conscious state, all is One, the great I Am within all. We need to look no further than within our own being to begin healing the wounds of war. The troops returning home need to know they matter, too, and their mission continues to uphold and honor the oaths they took to their country. As citizen leaders, they offer much through their training, discipline, and experience to their communities and the citizens of the United States who need help. Additionally, it is our mission as civilians to begin being as honorable and serving as those who defend our freedom.