Hidden Casualties of War

I am of the view that our troops returning home from active service find it a huge challenge to adjust as they pursue their dreams from countless, restless and seemingly endless periods in hostile surrounds. For many, such visions would become reality and for some, they will always remain a dream.  

In jungle where hand signals and whispers are part of a highly disciplined routine, and where even the slightest noise such a cracking twig, the clink of a spoon or mug can identify danger or betrayal of location. Such faint sounds jolt even the weariest of nerves. Imagine the contrast of disciplined silence in such a hostile environment with the first breakfast at home and a radio blaring, squabbling children and suburban din just days later? How about circumstances where a conscript who a just a week before was on a battlefield surrounded and supported by mates he trusted with his life, is suddenly living in a very lonely one- bedroom apartment. Even more challenging are the hidden consequences of arriving home after operational service then quickly transported by a time machine to the very same office desk where the veteran once worked and is surrounded by once familiar work mates who are now total strangers.  

Clearly, re-adjusting is the key to survival.  Understandably loved ones in the beginning are in most cases not familiar with the need for adjustment and learn by trial and error. Yet neglect of such needs by a government bureaucracy is unforgivable, more so given its long learning experience during the frequent deployments of our military in past decades.  

I do know from personal observation, numerous examples of the immense value of partners and families in helping neutralise the impact of PSTD. Yet families of today are learning the hard way the old lessons of yesterday, in how to manage the changing moods of a loved one. Some do not, and the consequences often add innocent families to the hidden casualty lists of war. Perhaps part of the problem is that military families are not assisted to understand and how to cope with an uninvited guest called PSTD?

One thing is certain. Demands of war are constant. If we are to send troops into harm’s way, they must, regardless of their role, be prepared for active service in a tough and demanding training arena involving battle inoculation which tests not only military skills and teamwork but physical and mental stamina so essential in war.  Failing that, we should stop grandstanding in questionable wars, many of which by the way, are not winnable.  

                          A Good Reason to Live

Gidday  Cobbers, it’s early hours and I can’t sleep, thus just a quick note

I see dripping taps transform into empty canteens and parched throats
Hear pattering rain and I’m am back in another place, shivering in an icy coat
Gasping and stumbling in smothering darkness, seeking a switch for light
Dreams of flying in metal chariots mid whirring ceiling fans wocking at night

The comforting laughter and wry humour at chopper pads as we prepared to fly
Masking fear from the madness of it all, and with forced grin, wondering why?
All as one, searching, listening, waiting in a dense green arena of heat and rain
Dreaming of when it will all end, and to be home with loved ones again.

How proud it was, as always we stepped forward as one  
To share punishment for barracks sin, or risk all in a battle that must be won
Now, I see their ghosts, lightly laden, smiling as they pass by on an endless way
Oh, to join them and leave the doubts and pain of all those yesterdays 

As I write, there are clear signs in OZ of more turmoil and strife. 
Discipline faltering and rabid brown shirts trying to destroy our way of life
Danger looms as we keep ignoring costly lessons from times gone by
Our sleepy mute politicians stumbling into tomorrow with no battle cry

Tonight, the column will as always return; singing, laughing, happy as can be
Marching in step, all together, and oh so free
Such a strong temptation to go and join them all
I can’t, there’s a way of life to protect, and “stay and fight” is our column’s call.

George Mansford © February 2020

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