Frustration melted and life renewed

When a combat veteran is discharged and returns home, there sometimes are more serious things to be faced and resolved than might at first be expected. Of course, just the fact that someone is a veteran doesn't automatically mean he or she has problems, yet there are issues that those who have experienced combat need to deal with regardless of who they are. For instance, one man described his return from Vietnam this way: "I was a platoon member fighting for my country and my life in the jungles of Vietnam, crawling through the foliage, risking everything to complete assignments that didn't always make sense to me. When I was discharged, I was quickly transported away from the intensity of combat. Because of the speed that helicopters and aircraft move people, within forty-eight hours I found myself in my own hometown in the midwestern United States standing on a corner watching people move about in their daily affairs."

The suddenness with which this kind of thing occurred was probably a shock to many veterans. Yet even if it took much longer to return home from battle, there are things veterans of all wars must resolve. People who've actually seen action, whether in the south of France, Korea, the Persian Gulf, or Sarajevo, have probably fought with terrific intensity, were subjected to harsh conditions, and were exposed to atrocities and degradation of human life. All during this time, but especially before what might be an actual engagement—even if it might not happen for months in the future—there is sometimes almost unrelenting fear. And one man, a fighter pilot, described desperately wanting to quit, no matter what the consequences, after each one of his first ten missions.

At the end of most wars, veterans have come home to parades and jubilation; but sometimes returning participants have been greeted with indifference, and in some cases even disdain and hatred. Many times, for the individual veteran, it's not whether a war is politically right or popular with the world that's the issue. Often what needs to be addressed is a renewed sense of the individual's own worth and purpose—also a reacquaintance with the sanity and goodness of life.

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Measuring Goliath?
February 21, 1994

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