Many’s the Vet- and even more so now -with these insane year-in, year-out deployments to combat zones, who comes home slightly bent. I know. I did and couldn’t figure out why everyone was not on the same page with me. You cannot go to war and play GI Joe without some of the paint coming off. You never return the same nor should you. If you think it was fun, you need help. But when you do seek help and they can your ass, then you have an intractable problem.
In my day a Bad Conduct discharge, DD Form 258 or its brother the Dishonorable (DD 259) were anathema. I took silver with a General. We called the Bad Conduct discharge the Big Chicken Dinner and bemoaned our friends who, for one reason or another, chose to go AWOL or worse. Men, who in any other circumstances, would never screw up-but did. Add a little death and destruction, salt with IEDs and no sleep and voila- instant temporary Bent Brain. Or permanently Bent after about 3 deploys. For some it was only one. Everyone has a different-sized rubber band in their brain. Some aren’t designed to take this stress. Others can’t live without it-right up until the day they discover they can’t live with it.
My son has a friend he went through K-12, soccer and the whole panoply of youth with. We all use these social constructs as an introduction to life when we get older. Josh is a Ranger. He’s on his third vacation in Afland. He just got married for all the wrong reasons. He just got a Bronze Star and a few other I was there ribbons. He’s into it. He engages in reckless drinking, etc. I recognize him. I’ve been there. Excitement is like heroin when you’re in the field. The in-between becomes boring. Action must be constant to perceive life properly. Losing a buddy becomes the focal point of a grudge match. There aren’t enough sand ranchers to even the score when that happens. Or, in my war at some point, you feel it was ordained that you arrange beer summits between Pathet Lao and God-the more the merrier.
Then you come home. Ho-humville doesn’t cut it. Dreams start to crop up with nightmares interspersed. It’s like a Country and Western song. Soon there are no dreams, no house, no kids and no wife. The Army takes a dim view of you failing to punch in Monday mornings. Alcohol and drugs can fix this for a while and then suddenly none of it can help. The only one that can help is one who has been there. Someone you can share your fears and regrets with. There are damn few of them around on a military base willing or able to do this. They’re busy listening to their own Country and Western songs, too.
Before long you end up with that Big Chicken Dinner and don’t care. When you finally come to your senses and need psychiatric help to find your way out of this maze, its too late. To add insult to injury, your provendor, that Big Brother (Veterans Administration) assigned to look over you, now shuns you. All those years of faithful service for naught. It sucks but that is the current system. A Vet doesn’t have time to matriculate through the system waiting for a decision on this bent brain syndrome. He needs help now. At the most important, crucial juncture when he or she finally reaches out and cries Uncle, they are met with the “We’ll have to study it and get back to you”.
Sen. Patty “Sneakers” Murray and her cohorts up at the Big house feel the status quo is workable and needs no fine-tuning. I wish I could introduce her to some of these fine upstanding people who defended America when She asked for their help. Unfortunately, they’re disappearing at the rate of about 30 a day.