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Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Soldier's Perspective

One of the things that I really like about my university is that we have an unbelievably diverse group of students attending classes. The students I meet are from an incredibly interesting mix of ages, cultures, religions and backgrounds. It really makes discussions interesting, and allows us to hear perspectives that we might not typically be exposed to. The other night we were discussing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was first coined in relation to soldiers who had gone through battle during the various wars. There were two students in my class who had served our country - one was an older black man who is a Vietnam veteran, and the other was a black women I would estimate to be in her late 20's who has recently served in Iraq. They got into a discussion about whether soldiers can ever come back home and really fit into society again. The traumas and experiences of war undoubtably have an eternal impact on a person, and many are not sure how to integrate their experiences into their lives back home. The Vietnam veteran spoke very eloquently about serving his country. He said the greatest lesson he learned in war is that you must figure out what you are willing to die for, or else you don't know what you are living for. He said that his experience made him realize the importance of fighting for your country, and the beauty of living in a place like America. It made him appreciate so much more everything that he had, especially his family. He advocated all citizens having the honor to represent their country in military service. The woman who has served in Iraq had a very different outlook. She was hurt very much by what she saw in Iraq, and feels she is no longer able to normally function in society. Her experiences changed her, but to be resentful of the act of serving her country. At the end of the discussion, the two students agreed to sit down and talk about their experiences together outside of class. The Vietnam veteran very much wanted to help the woman ease her pain and resentment. I know very few people who have served in the Armed Forces, and rarely hear them speak about the perspective on how it changed them. I have very mixed feeling about military service and war in general, so it was really enlightening to hear two people in my class who had such different, but both very life-changing experiences.

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