When I was ten my mom married an apparently great guy. He was polite, respectful of her parents, he treated her with nothing but kindness. He opened doors for her, he took care of her. Plus, he was a bad-ass!! In a way, he was the Knight in Shining Armor I think Mom had been looking for. I became the apple of his eye, and he was the center of my universe. It didn't seem strange to me that we developed a family tradition of pointing a cocked finger at the TV, "shooting" anyone with Asian features. It became normal for us to look at each-other disdainfully when we found ourselves sitting next to non-Caucasians at school functions. While other families would get together and watch movies or play board games, we sat around and took guns apart, cleaned them and put them back together. My brother and I learned how to make booby-traps in the woods around our house. We held the knob when closing a door, never slammed cupboards, and stood outside of arms reach when waking my SD up from a nap (it only took one look at the "where the hell am I and who the fuck are you" glare to know why that was necessary.)
Dad was pretty damn overprotective of me too - to the point where I was not allowed to talk about boys, take phone calls from boys, or even THINK about having a boyfriend. Once, when I was about 15, a friend’s brother called to ask if I would go on a double date. As soon as I heard it was a boy on the phone for me, I freaked out, expecting some huge blow up from the SD. I doubt I heard a word the poor guy said; I was so fixated on my SD's reaction to the call. (To this day I wish I had had the balls to have gone out with him.)
I didn't follow all the rules though: if you didn’t make your bed in the morning, the mattress would be on the other side of the room when you got home. On a day when I didn’t make my bed, Dad read about my "boyfriend" in the diary that I had hidden beneath my mattress and all hell broke loose. It was the beginning of the end of my honeymoon with my SD. Screaming and tears ensued - I will spare you the gory details. The only other time I lost it that bad with SD was when my friends came to my house to show me their outfits for the Tolo (sort of a Sadie-Hawkins type thing). When Dad threatened them with a shotgun for trespassing, the honeymoon was truly, irrevocably over.
As we kids got older we spent less time at home. Mom got a job in town and she also spent less time at home. I was never privy to the details of exactly why my Mom and SD split up, but I think it had a lot to do with increasing paranoia and possibly increased drug use on his part. It was pretty aware that my SD smoked pot and eventually there could have been more hardcore chemicals in the mix.
In my opinion, all of this was the result of PTSD. Of course, I didn't know my Dad before he came back from Vietnam. He had probably been back for 10 years or more by the time he entered our lives and there is no way to know if he would have been a paranoid control freak with a penchant for guns and booby traps, and a tendency to react violently to surprise or loud noise, if he hadn't gone overseas. He might have taught us to shoot guns and throw knives and tie knots and construct panji traps anyway. But it doesn't take a mental genius to make the connection between "trained killer" and "shitty violence-prone father figure”. My brother has a few stories of his own to tell - not the least of which is the episode where SD put a knife in my brother's hand and forced my brother to cut SD, because of the guilt SD felt for hitting my brother. I think my brother was 14. Wanna know who's fucked up and why? BINGO!)
So people talk about lost limbs, lost lives, lost innocence, and it makes them feel good. It makes them feel Concerned and Involved. It's only been recently that lost sanity has been talked about openly and with genuine alarm. I understand that, even in the age of equality, “men are men" and expected to tough out personal emotional issues - to Snap Out of It, or Get Over It. But let’s be realistic. These kids (and a high percentage of them are just kids when they go off to boot camp) are worked to the point of exhaustion and a lack of personal identity. Then they are programmed (yes, I said it - just like brainwashing) to think they are deadly weapons. Their purpose is to kill and not be killed. That's it. See that guy? Kill him. Did she look suspicious? All is fair in love and war - shoot her. Oops - that was a wedding party we just razed? Yeah, well, war is hell.
And now that the war is over........come on home, Son, and forget all of that kill or be killed stuff. Settle back in to the kinder, gentler person you were before you got used to seeing body parts on the side of the road, heard your buddies scream in your headphones as they drove over an IED. Before your survival depended on assuming every shadow is the enemy. Forget the woman wailing over the body of her dead child - which YOU (accidentally or not) killed. Forget the kid that begged for candy only to blow himself up when an unsuspecting GI got too close. Yeah, forget all that. Snuggle with your wife, go back to your job at the ship yard, live the life you thought you wanted before you were tempted in to the "glory" of mortal combat.
So if I can figure all this out - and I have known this for a very long time - why aren’t we all exploding over this, demanding changes in how our military men and women (yes, women suffer from PTSD too; although the numbers are smaller as fewer women see active combat) are reintroduced in to society? I'd be willing to bet the US spends more money on rehabbing and educating convicted criminals than on mental health care and counseling for our returning soldiers. I’m even willing to bet that some people donate more time and energy toward trying to outlaw birth control, abortion and same sex marriage than they do toward PTSD - maybe while at the same time, encouraging other people's kids to Join Up.
So did you hear the one about the veteran that shot and killed a park ranger at Mt. Rainier?
What about these gems:
Iraq war veteran Martin Abel Poynter shot and killed a police officer trying to arrest him on a child-custody charge. He shot the officer and then killed himself.
An Iraq war veteran stabbed his girlfriend's father in Morgan Hill California and pleaded no contest to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
Iraq war veteran Joshua Stepp is accused of assaulting and murdering his infant stepdaughter. He acknowledged responsibility for the death of the girl although he pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and sexual assault.
Iraq war veteran Jason Pemberton shot and killed his wife, then himself in Daytona Beach.
Iraq War Veteran Fabion Brown paid Broderic Glover $250 to kill his wife, Jessica, as part of an alleged murder for hire plot.
And the list goes on.
So tell me……..is it still a surprise?