My statements hit home. Pop snapped out of his dreamy, far off, reverie. His eyes took on a clear, focused look. “I suppose that’s so,” he acknowledged, and he then turned the conversation to less intense subjects. I sat with Pop during many more nights when he drank and reminisced before his passing a year later. Never again did he tell that story. That nightmarish memory had ceased to haunt him. He had finally processed it and moved on.
Every veteran close to me has wrestled with disturbing memories to varying degrees. In some cases, it took years, even decades, before they were ready or able to talk about the traumatic events that have haunted them.
Our veterans have far more scars than meet the eye. For most of them, thank God, the love of their families, their many happy memories, and their personal courage to push ahead with satisfying and productive lives enable them to cope with the ugly memories of war.
How can we help them? That isn’t an easy question, but as we pause to recognize and honor their service to our country on Veterans Day, let us resolve to do what we can. Let us be steadfastly supportive friends and family members.
If our veterans need to talk, let us be patient and compassionate listeners.
If they prefer not to talk about their military service and are getting on with their lives, then let us respect their wishes and let sleeping dogs lie.
If their military memories continue to hurt them today, perhaps we need to help them find professional help.
If nothing else, let us look for opportunities to express our gratitude for their sacrifices and pray that each precious one of them may find peace from haunting memories.