Recently all of my eloquent descriptions of Health and Life were put to the test when I joined a huge conference focusing on the whole-person health and wellbeing of members of the uniformed services.*
TheWarrior Resilience Conference was held near the Pentagon and the presenters were focused on the health of those who serve in the military, as well as after they return to civilian life.
*I attended the Feb 2011 presentation; this blog was originally posted then.
The photo is of three who have been changed by military service. The two soldiers next to me were in the platoon that was followed by a documentary team from National Geographic for 15 months in Afghanistan. That documentary is now on DVD and is named after the medic who was killed during the time: Restrepo.
[Addendum: See below a movie that captures emotions that may be behind someone's joining the military.*]
Entering the military forever changes a person (and their birth family and partner and children at home). They learn things, see things and do things that people in the civilian society never can experience. Sometimes the changes include major stress to the body and the brain. As a result of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, communities and families are now receiving large numbers of veterans of recent military service; some are having major challenges with re-entering civilian life. We have a long way to go before we understand each other.
[Update, April 2012: I now have great hope for the benefits that are being seen because of what is being called the New Brain Science. I introduce that in blog essays -- A Veteran's story: Arthur, Yoga and my FlexAware blog | Autonomic Science: Relax You're Not Sitting Atop a Rocket | Living Inside the Box: Your Body as Temple | Hey, Coach, What Do I Do Now: Life Trauma Resilience -- and on my information site: The New Brain Science.]
Military and civilian life experiences are widely different. That difference can push us to look at what it means to be human and what Total Fitness can mean for either of those two life paths. This includes what are called physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects — which were major parts of the Resilience conference. The speakers at the Conference presented a major new innovation, which was the realization that there is a Trauma Spectrum. The Trauma Spectrum as I understand it includes the full range of effects of military service on the individual. They were insistent upon including Veterans and their families and communities in their far-ranging planning.
New descriptions help us see old problems in a new way. First is the new term, Warrior Resilience, and then the new concept, Trauma Spectrum. Our society now has the opportunity to look back at the Veterans and families from past wars and understand more clearly the sometimes subtle changes that the service member may experience. In fact we can look back and see how the entire society was traumatized by war and people’s lives changed forever. I’ve known many people both in the military and out, and I am impressed with the price it cost each of them. Each member of uniformed services, their families and the Veterans after their service is over has forever been changed.
I invite you to read my blog introducing Family Constellations (a life reframing approach that was developed by a man who had been conscripted into the German Army in WWII and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge). You will understand why I am convinced that above the boundaries of military life and of civilian life, and above political boundaries worldwide, we are all part of a field of connected life that is the Human Family. What to do with that image depends on you. Such a transcendental image may be appealing, and living above boundaries can indeed be a person’s conscious choice.
However, some of us need to inhabit the edges between different belief systems. That is where things can become “kill or be killed.” That is where military and veterans have trained to excel and to keep the peace as much as possible. It is beyond words how deeply it can change a person.
Looking at all those thoughts that I have just presented in what I wrote and what they may mean for you, I know that I can’t give you the solution for your own situation as part of the human race. I must trust your inner creative and healing power (in naturopathic medicine we call this your Vis medicatrix naturae) to generate your own answers as a product of your life and your social environment. [See my Trauma resources page.]
On the larger scale now more than ever we need a robust society that meets every individual where they are. Pray for Humanity, pray for the planet. Welcome to the Human Family. Signed – Doc Wilson
Addendum, November 2012: Here is a support site that may be very helpful, click here or on the logo below:
*below is a video clip that captures some of the emotions behind uniformed service; service and risk of self for the sake of others — the trailer for the movie, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: