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Thank vets for their service

May 23, 2014
Luis Coca, Rugby ND , Pierce County Tribune

"Welcome home" to all of my fellow warriors who have served honorably. Memorial Day is the day that we honor our fallen comrades on the battle fields for democracy and freedom we enjoy today. They are the true American heroes who served in the time of need for our country. I am proud to be counted with so many men and women who are called "Veterans".

Upon my return from Vietnam in 1970, a returning veteran was met at the airports with anti-war protesting and insults. It wasn't popular to be in the military serving during an unpopular war. That war came into the living room of every home at night by way of television and the front page of the local newspaper. For the first time in history, the war came home to every American family.

Veterans boarded the "freedom bird" in Vietnam and a few hours later landed at SeaTac or LAX. There was no heroes' welcome for them. Many were discharged from the military and made their way home and tried to forget about their experiences in combat. Some were successful; while others struggle with the demons they brought home.

When you walk the halls of the Veteran Hospital in Fargo, you can see the physical wounds of our vets. The missing limbs and the scars are very visible. What is not seen is the emotional scars that so many have. Every warrior, regardless of what hostile area they served, has them to one degree or another. It may have been called "battle stress", "shell shock" or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is the unseen battle damage that affects them and their loved ones for the remainder of their lives.

Nightmares, sudden explosions of anger, isolation and flashbacks are only a few of the extreme symptoms. Most veterans come home and adjust very well with little problem. They are functional in society. But there are some who just can't get rid of the demons. They resort to self medication with alcohol and/or drug use to ease the pain of memories. They withdraw from their loved ones and live in isolation with their thoughts. When that doesn't help, thoughts of suicide come to mind. Unfortunately, some act upon that thought. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans aren't the only ones experiencing suicide among their ranks. It's a historical fact that every war has its casualties with suicide.

Yes, I also have PTSD; but I am very functional in society. Upon my return from Vietnam, I experienced nightmares and self-medicated with alcohol. It was a downward spiral until I came to realize what was happening to me. With a little help from the military, VA and the understanding of my family, it's kept in check. It's not dishonorable to seek help and to have these emotional scars.

You want to honor a veteran? Thank a vet for their service to their country and the sacrifices they have made. And while you are at it, take time to thank their families for their sacrifices also. Their worries and concern over the deployment and safe return of their loved ones is a sacrifice. God bless this great nation that we are so fortunate to live in and God bless our military, past and present.

Luis Coca,

USAF/Master Sergeant

Retired

Rugby ND

 
 

 

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