So, we wonder how a little thing like combat can change a person so much. Yes, I did insert the word little because that is how it comes across when someone tells me that war is “no big deal”. The truth is, war IS a big dea. The truth is, they don't know what a soldier, Marine, military member goes through in a war zone. The main reason is because a combat veteran doesn't want their family member to experience it, even second-hand.
People who haven't been to war don't know how hard it is for a soldier who sees a child with a soccer ball to refrain from joining in and playing because that innocent child could very well have a hidden bomb strapped to him. A scream in an alley that leads him and his comrades to try to help a girl could be an ambush. Constant 24 hour explosions, even if not in their path, can and has lead to many TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).
I could never disrespect a combat veteran by saying it couldn't have been that bad. Seriously, think of a war movie. Think of the sitcom MASH. Think of a scary movie such as Nightmare on Elm Street. If that can get your adrenaline going for a few minutes, how can you not comprehend real war 24/7?
Now, in fairness, I do know some soldiers have stated this themselves, that it wasn't a big deal. They are stating it as a way of not having to deal with it, not talking about it to family and friends. But watch them for a few days and you'll see what I mean: they pace, they won't sit in a restaurant (if you can even get them to go) unless they are facing the door, they have flashbacks and they have major mood swings. Some are called lazy for sleeping all morning. It's because they don't want to go to sleep. They fight it for as long as they can because of the nightmares.
Try this: Spend a day following your normal routine. Say it's a Saturday and you're at the soccer field. Could you imagine that child with a bomb strapped under his or her shirt? It happens in a war zone. Say it's Monday and the kids are going off to school. Can you imagine a child going for the first time at the age of 9 or 10 because she never had the right to before? It happens in other countries. Police officers are given time off when they are involved in a shooting. A soldier in a war zone has to stay alert at all times, even while back at the post grabbing a few hours of shut-eye because IEDs are exploding everywhere.
Most people recognize that PTSD has a stigma. Combat veterans don't like seeking help because they are afraid people will think they are crazy. I see a second stigma attached to it. People think combat veterans dealing with PTSD and a TBI are lazy. That stigma is just as prejudicial and discriminating in my opinion.
I can't imagine what those on the front lines saw. I don't disrespect our combat veterans. If you have any appreciation for the life of freedom we have here in the states, hopefully, you don't, either. If you are confused, though, if you are frustrated by the changes in your loved one since he or she came home, then please know that you are NOT ALONE. Find a support group. If you can't, then contact us and we will help you find one either in your area or online.