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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering Veterans Day - and "Alive Day"

On Being Asked for a War Poem, William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
I think it better that in times like these
A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.
I think Yeats has got it right.

So, on this Veteran's Day, I'm just going to let the soldiers, themselves, speak.

Well, one of them anyway.

This is a clip from the 2007 HBO Special Iraq War Documentary, "Alive Day" which was produced by James Gandolfini.

It is not a political documentary. It stays relentlessly focused on the soldiers - their lives, before and after their life-threatening and mutilating injuries - some of which are painfully obvious.

Even this brief clip is not for the faint of heart.

Other injuries may be invisible to the naked eye, but they are nonetheless part of the debilitating effects of PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Today, Veteran's Day, consider spending a few minutes listening to this interview with 27 year old Dawn Halfaker, First Lt, US Army, 293 Military Police.

Her "Alive Day" was June 19, 2004 - the day she narrowly escaped from death. Her right arm and shoulder were amputated. She spent ten days in a medically induced coma as part of her surgical recovery.

One of the most touching moments in this clip is when she wonders aloud, as she fights back tears, if anyone will ever love her. . . if, because she can't pick up a child she might have, that her son or daughter might feel any less loved. Might be able to love her, still.

The expression of her fears not only speaks poignantly about the on-going healing process of her mind and spirit, but also reveal her courage to be vulnerable.

Completely human.

A brave and honorable person.

Of your kindness and mercy, please keep Dawn and all the veterans of war in your prayers today. I offer three prayers.

This one is a Prayer for Veteran's Day by Jennifer Phillips, from her book, "Simple Prayers for Complicated Lives."
Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield: we give you thanks for the devotion and courage of all those who have offered military service for this country: For those who have fought for freedom; for those who laid down their lives for others; for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body; for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger, endured separation from those they love, labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime. Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war; encourage and heal those in hospitals or mending their wounds at home; guard those in any need or trouble; hold safely in your hands all military families; and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion and tranquil life at home.

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts and a united will to honor these men and women and hold them always in our love and our prayers; until your world is perfected in peace through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Finally, these two prayers which were adapted from the prayers which can be found on page 823 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, our Heavenly Creator, whose Only Child forgave his enemies while he was suffering shame and death: Strengthen those who suffer for the sake of conscience; when they are accused, save them from speaking with hate; when they are rejected, save them from bitterness; when they are imprisoned, save them from despair; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their witness and to discern te truth, that our society may be cleansed and strengthened. This we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ, our merciful and righteous Judge. Amen.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Brava, Elizabeth. On this day I think about all the WWII vets I grew up around in the 1960's, back when we knew precious little about PTSD. Those folks were expected to just go home and live their lives like they were "normal", despite what they saw or experienced. No wonder so many of them turned to the bottle, experienced horrible nightmared the rest of their lives, or created difficulties in their families. No one told them that what they felt was part of a hidden casualty of war. They were just told to "go live a normal life and it will take care of itself."

We still have so far to go with understanding PTSD, but I am grateful to God that when my cousin returned from Iraq a couple of years ago, part of his de-processing included gaining a thorough understanding of "what might come later."

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dear Sister!