by Sgt. J. Gravel
War. Simple enough in name, and as a childhood game, it was simple in consequence. A quick ten count or a push of the reset button and the consequences of the war were all but over when we were children. It was a game of no consequence and easy winnings. As adults we were to learn that the consequences of war are far more lasting than any ten counts.
We have experienced moments of terrifying beauty, compassion, hatred and horror of artistic proportions. We have seen the cold reality of what a breakdown in communication can do to two people. We have stood between those sides, tried to protect their weak, and build their schools, and repair the damage caused by their hatred. It is a hatred we could not understand. It is a hatred we could not empathize with. Regardless of our lack of understanding of their reality, the nature our profession had plunged us amidst their conflicts. Their reality had become ours.
There is indefinable feeling that is shared between people who have sworn to defend one another and watch out for each other regardless of the situation, regardless of what shade of right or wrong they operate in. There is an implicit trust. It is a love, not a romantic love, but a love born of mutual respect for each other’s talents as a warrior, and their willingness to endure the worst of situations with you. Because of this friend you can handle not only the worst that life can throw at you, but also, what the rest of the world won’t deal with. I had those friends. I have lost those friends.
Being called upon to commit the ultimate sin or to give the ultimate sacrifice can leave a lasting impression on those that have been called upon to fight their nations’ wars. Scars and souvenirs aren’t necessarily all that soldiers come home with. Some of our extra baggage can’t be stored away in barrack boxes and kit bags. Some of our baggage doesn’t go away. There is a way to sort through some of that emotional luggage, and OSISS can help.
OSISS (Operational Stress Injury Social Support) is a peer support network of ex-service members. It is a group of like-minded individuals, equally struggling to navigate in a world far more foreign to us than any village in the Middle East or jungle trail; our own backyards. Some of these soldiers have watched the sun set in the mountains of Afghanistan and some have watched it rise in the jungles of Vietnam. Some gave witness to the bullet scarred architecture of the Balkans or even served in the uniform of their country during our endless pursuit of victory during the Cold War. Regardless of our branch of service, our generation, our conflict, or even the flag on our shoulders, the gatekeepers to our nightmares all hold the same key.
OSISS and their affiliates were able to lend me a hand in my rehabilitation process. I need to stress the positive impact that the support and patience of my family and friends were able to have on my recovery. OSISS was able to show me that I am normal, that what I have experienced is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and that being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was not a detriment to my person. Even G.I. Joe had some troubles readjusting. This is for you that have watched someone else’s back and had the comfort of knowing that your back was in turn being watched. You are not alone. OSISS is there for you. You started out this mess with a fire team partner, and it’s time to finish with one.
Around the table here at Legion Br 143, it looks to me like a painting found in my grandparent’s basement. The one focused around a motley crew of dogs from the pound playing cards, but we belong to an exclusive society of former warriors. Membership was earned through tears and blood. We are as a different in age as are the conflicts which we fought. Some of us are in our twenties and thirties, and there are some of us that push into our fifties and sixties and beyond. We are the Veterans of our greater generation’s wars. We are the baby boomers of Vietnam, and we are the Generation X’s and Y’s of UN missions of the 80’s and 90’s. We are the fighters of the War against Terrorism. What brings us together today is living with the realities of where we have been and what we have done. This table is full of former dogs of war. Now we are just tired.
Anyone wishing more information about what OSISS is and what they can do for you, please contact Mike Newcombe:
Peer Support Coordinator
London, ON N6C 5J1
519-685-4292 ext. 42277
To my fallen brothers, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, at the lighting of a cigarette and in the tipping of a glass, in the writing of this article and with the shedding of tears, I will remember you.
Sgt. J. Gravel, CD (ret'd)
February 23rd, 2009