The soldier in transition
When the Chinese soldier in Tiananmen Square hesitated to kill people his own age who were offering him food, and when he set fire to his own tank yet remained in uniform, we can only imagine his internal conflict. We like to frame this as a conflict between immorality and morality, but to the soldier it was a conflict between two methods of being moral, or two methods of being immoral.
What made life torturous for soldiers from Afghanistan to Vietnam to Tiananmen was facing both the old expectation of external conflict and the new introspection that created internal conflict – and then returning home to face not appreciation but isolation. Caring about our soas means creating a support network for our veterans to deal with this extraordinary range of fears.
As our veterans returned to their mirrors at home and saw two faces, they wondered if they have been the hired murderers of innocent women, children, and men – and even, sometimes, the unwitting murderers of a buddy, & la Ron Kovic of Вот on the Fourth of July fame. We have a responsibility to help them know their fears and know themselves. It is difficult for them to talk about their fears and nightmares when they are either seen as a traitor or never acknowledged as having been in combat. We must also do this for female veterans, but without forgetting that it is combat veterans who face the most severe posnraumatic stress.