I was standing in line at the bank when I heard a customer ask the teller if her son was home from Iraq. The teller responded that he was not home in her house, but he was back and stationed in Texas. The customer said she was glad to hear that. I thought to myself: But the war is not over, my son is on his way to replace someone else’s son, and how I wish I was that bank teller.
Last week, I drove to Texas to see my son, who will soon be deployed to Iraq for a second time. As I was driving I was thinking that many people believe that since Obama announced his plan to have all troops out by 2011, the war is over. But it is not over. It is not over for many families like myself whose sons will be returning home next year; it is not over for people like the bank teller whose sons and daughters bring the war home with them.
Their nightmares begin to paint a picture of what they went through. Their flashbacks dramatize those nightmares. And the fact that they are not the same person they were before brings it home in an unimaginable way.
My son had been back from Iraq for 11 months and on Thanksgiving Day he had such a flashback; he thought he was back in Iraq and on a mission. It took several hours for us to get him to come out of it. No, the war is not over for the thousands who served in Iraq. It won’t be over until we as U.S. citizens understand that we are responsible for their trauma and we need to make sure they get the help they need — the kind of help that tells them they belong here with us and that we will take care of them.
They need specialized help for their type of trauma. The people of the U.S. cannot wait for the troops to come to them for help — they need to be reached out to. We can see that the Vietnam War is not over for many veterans who live out in the streets, or are in jail, or can’t hold down a job, those with substance abuse problems, and the many who can’t have meaningful relationships with their families. We did not take care of them as we should have.
The war in Iraq will never be over until we as a people accept responsibility and take care of our troops. This is the only way the war will really be over for all of us.