May 25, 2014

Dead Veterans Aren’t the Only Ones Who Need to Be Remembered.

Memorial Day soldier graphic

Metta for Homeless Veterans

I’m guessing the creator of the above graphic didn’t intend for it to be a backhanded comment about soldiers once they do come home. The way it’s written implies that soldiers may be unloved, alone and forgotten once they come home from war.

The sad fact is that many of them are.

Memorial Day is a day to honor and commemorate members of the military who died in service to the country.

I am a pacifist and an idealist; I’d choose peace talks and diplomacy over violent battle. However, I realize that war is a fact of life in our society, and I am grateful for all the courageous troops who have offered their lives to the cause.

For me, it is also a day to cherish the memories of my two grandpas, both of whom served in World War Two. My dad’s dad was of Czech descent. He was extremely reticent; I always wished I could have gotten closer to him. Years after his death in 1996, I found out that he’d been given electroshock therapy treatment for depression. It’s likely that his experience in the war is what led to his mental illness.

My mom’s dad was a force of nature who rose up out of Mexican-American dirt-poorness in San Antonio to achieve the rank of Colonel in the Air Force. He was a member of the Flying Tigers who served in India and China.

It is also imperative that we look at how veterans are (mis)treated today in the United States and take action to help those who are in dire need of help.

According to the Department of Defense, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) likely affect over 500,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The symptoms of these illnesses can be misconstrued as misconduct and result in an “other-than-honorable” discharge, stripping veterans of their VA healthcare and other essential benefits.

A year ago, Dave Philipps of The Gazette reported:

After the longest period of war in American history, more soldiers are being discharged for misconduct than at any time in recent history, and soldiers with the most combat exposure are the hardest hit. A Gazette investigation based on data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows the annual number of misconduct discharges is up more than 25 percent Army-wide since 2009, mirroring the rise in wounded.

All told, more than 76,000 soldiers have been kicked out of the Army since 2006. They end up in cities large and small across the country, in hospitals and homeless shelters, abandoned trailers and ratty apartments, working in gas fields and at the McDonald’s counter.

yoga military army

As usual, one powerful solution is yoga and mindfulness.

The non-profit organization, Veterans Yoga Project, notes that:

Over one-quarter of VA PTSD treatment programs offer yoga as a complementary part of treatment… mindful yoga therapy provides the self-regulation skills that are needed to effectively manage symptoms and benefit from trauma-processing therapies.

Veterans have found that mindful yoga therapy helps them sleep better, concentrate and think more clearly, manage anger and aggression more easily, and find comfort in their own skin. Yoga may not cure posttraumatic stress disorder, yet veterans and active-duty individuals from all branches and eras of services find these practices to be a significant and necessary part of their recovery also provides resources and training for veteran

Yoga for Vets is a website that lists all the places where veterans can receive free yoga classes. Yoga teachers, please consider adding your name, gym or studio to their roster. Mindful community members, if you know a veteran, invite them to attend yoga or meditation with you!

Lastly, one thing we can do right now, on Memorial Day or any day, is practice metta meditation and send good wishes to our active-duty troops, as well as the veterans struggling to make ends meet back home.

Metta is a Buddhist meditation technique that involves generating loving kindness for ourselves, our loved ones and ultimately all sentient beings.

May our veterans be safe.

May our veterans be healthy.

May our veterans be happy.

May our veterans be free from suffering.

Here’s to a mindful Memorial Day.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo Credit: US Army Future Soldier Center, Wikimedia Commons

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