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When You Hear The Bugle Call: Battling PTSD and the Unraveling of the American Conscience
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When You Hear the Bugle Call

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By Peter S. Griffin

This is a brief excerpt from Peter S. Griffin's book.

“WAR IS HELL” – SO IS COMBAT PTSD!

     I pray that the reading of this very personal account of war and its aftermath will benefit other combat veterans agonized by severe and chronic PTSD as it has been for me in the writing of it. The intention of this account is to help them, their friends and loved ones better understand this devastating “psychological, automatic, and natural response” to repeated, life threatening situations and to offer them hope and guidance in achieving a much brighter future. This publication will bring them to the realization that they are not alone in their sufferings and that professional help, understanding and comradeship, is as close as the nearest Veterans Administration Medical Center.

     The taking of the lives of enemy soldiers and witnessing the loss of life to fellow friends and warriors is difficult, if not impossible, to forget or overcome. In the case of battle deaths, the end usually comes in a sudden, violent and bloody onslaught. Seeing and hearing others receive wounds, then crying out in painful agony, sometimes for several hours, before protection, relief and care can reach them is a nightmare come true that will haunt the survivor for the rest of his or her life. Sometimes the wounded are impossible to reach because of overwhelming enemy resistance. While listening to their anguished cries, unable to bring them to safety, you hear them put to death unmercifully by a desperate, unscrupulous and vicious enemy is not an easy thing to get out of your mind. The unwarranted guilt associated with such circumstances can agonize the witness until death relieves him of his tormented existence. I urge all who suffer from this torturous, hellish agony to seek professional assistance and relief before their flashbacks, nightmares, ill perceived guilt and intrusive thoughts claim yet another life, or quality thereof, of another true, brave and dedicated patriot.

             War is an all-consuming hell,

             Those who do not perish in the inferno…

            Are seared for life by the flames!

     It is not, to say the least, an enjoyable or comfortable position to find oneself… alienated from friends and loved ones because of the tragic symptoms of this terrible disorder. If one is unable to find a semblance of peace in his or her life, how can one offer the same to those they try to befriend or love?

     The modern, fast paced, work a day world following trauma exposure is sure to exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD. Most vocations have some degree of stress associated with them. The burden of additional stresses, over time and level of exposure, may become too much to bear for some individuals. Of course, some vocations have much higher stress levels than others. High-risk jobs such as fire, police, EMT and rescue are sure to increase and hasten the risk of extreme “burn out” of severe and chronic PTSD sufferers. Casual or work associations dissolve quickly, especially if those people do not sincerely care about the PTSD victim. The world is full of ambitious, cruel, and backstabbing people. Many will do anything to get ahead in the work place. It is a highly competitive environment and some people will maliciously and intentionally belittle, humiliate and disgrace any person who threatens their position or advancement, no matter how unwarranted their motives. If these factors exist and persist long enough in the work environment, the exacerbated PTSD symptoms in the sufferer will readily become apparent to those who add to the torment of the victim. The final outcome is quite predictable… violence, and more often than not, premature job termination for the victim. Voluntary or involuntary, the difference means little to those who must release the pressure. Unjust? It can be but it is certainly a career ender never the less! If the victim cannot find a way to relieve the stress, unfortunately, tragedy could become the final outcome. If this is to be avoided we all should make note… as surely as those who lost their lives to battle need to be remembered, those who survived need to be understood!

     For the combat veteran who is accustomed to the tried and true leadership methods and skills of the United States Armed Forces, whose policy is to lead by example, any lesser standards that he becomes exposed to later in life will surely present problems for the former warrior. Combat veterans were trained to react quickly and effectively under the most dangerous of circumstances and to take charge if need be. The old adage, “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!” is fundamental in their minds and they will employ whatever action is appropriate to accomplish their mission and objectives. If their leader is killed, wounded or rendered ineffective for any reason the mission remains their primary purpose. Many other lives depend on it and they know it! Under those conditions, the highest-ranking soldier will assume command and continue the momentum. Even if reduced to a solitary soldier, he will either seize the objective or die trying! After every battle lessons are learned and new tactics and skills adopted to save the lives of our soldiers in future engagements.

     In the civilian world of first person singular, all too often, poor leadership styles, lack of leadership skills, improper reaction to difficult, hostile and dangerous circumstances and inefficiencies in the general performance of duties are intolerable to the combat veteran and will ultimately lead to confrontation and disharmony between the veteran, his supervisors and coworkers. In the combat veteran’s mind, those totally unacceptable and intolerable conditions forced upon him and the complications from Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will at sometime, in all likelihood, reach an “ignition point,” the combat veteran “will see red” and react angrily and/or violently, in whatever manner he feels justified and appropriate to correct the situation. Unfortunately, it is often to his own detriment, as his “Monday morning quarterbacks” will deem his outburst and opposition as a threat to their authority and try to punish him for insubordination or some other unfounded violation of their rules and regulations. Regrettably, “the powers that be” usually win out… even if they grossly failed to perform their duties righteously and effectively, which caused the confrontation in the first place! Repeated episodes of this nature will eventually lead to the loss of morale, pride and finally, the “undoing of character” of the combat veteran. If the negative stimuli which exacerbates the victim’s symptoms remains unrelieved or unresolved and/or the victim of severe and chronic PTSD remains undiagnosed and untreated, his/her symptoms could tragically reach the severity of despondency, extreme violence and/or suicide.

              The true and brave warrior never ceases to be,

             On becoming a Chief, with all to oversee!

             He will not topple to the strongest of winds,

             For to fail his warriors, the worst of all sins!


     Unfortunately, sometimes in our society lesser men seem to be the most successful. Those who did the least, got away with it for years, and patronized their superiors even when blatantly wrong, get to enjoy the fruits and recognition of “a long and distinguished career,” with full retirement benefits and lauded for a “job well done!” Whereas, all too often, those who actually did the ground level, grunt work proficiently and honorably and bore the excessive burdens of an already stressful vocation admirably, were unjustly labeled “unable to cope and were burned out” years before attaining a “successful completion” to their career! Unfortunately, “The beat goes on…” and on, and on!

     If this has happened to you, my fellow warrior, despair not! You have carried your rucksack well… as well as many of the packs of those who truly could not bear their own burdens of duty and responsibility, those feeble ones who had the audacity to criticize and slander you. You carried all those excessive burdens, as well as your own, far beyond the distant towering peaks those ordinary men swore unattainable. They were incapable of following in your footsteps, they know it in their hearts but remain unwilling to admit it for by doing so they would reveal the hidden truths about themselves and uncover their shame that they cloak in the guise of success and honor. You were the one who brought the fight to the enemy, took his coup but still treated him with the dignity and respect deserving of a true, albeit opposing warrior. You fought the good fight and there is no dishonor in regrouping and refitting to fight yet, another day… with more admirable leaders who know, respect and value the honorable traits of a noble and just warrior. There is no shame in leaving those self-serving others behind to wallow in the stagnant muck and mire they so deserve, rejoice and revel in.

     If you are too tired and worn to carry on with the good fight that is fine. You have fulfilled your obligations and surpassed the goals of the ordinary man. You have done your duty well, very well and it is time for you to find peace for yourself and those you love and cherish. Pull them close to your bosom and tell them you love them. Know that no discomfort will come to you or them as the many deserving medals that cover your heart, those you so truly and valiantly earned, softly caress, then gleam ever so brilliantly from the contact with those who know the truth, honor, bravery and dignity of a dedicated and loyal veteran. You have completed a job that is so much more than just simply well done! You excelled far beyond that! You have earned the honor and respect of all your peers, loved ones and your country… I salute you, my brother!

     If you need help finding the peace you so deserve call any of the major veteran’s service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled Veterans of America, or the American Legion, … any one of your choice, there are many others and they are all good. Most of their offices, as well as the VA, are in the Federal Buildings located in major cities across each of our united states. Ask to speak to their Department Service Officer (DSO). He or she will gladly help you file a VA claim and guide you through the processing steps to achieve the help and benefits you are so entitled to. You do not have to join their organization to get their help. They will be pleased and honored to assist you, regardless. It is their job, they are experts at it and they take great pride in helping all of America’s brave combat/military veterans.

     In your quest for peace, righteousness, and sincerity never forget that true friends are as scarce as happiness in Hades. If you have one you are truly blessed. Thank God for giving you such a wonderful gift. They will stand by you in the most difficult of circumstances and times. I thank God for providing me with a loving and caring wife who helped guide me through some very troubled and turbulent years.

     The writing of such a misunderstood, complex and personal topic such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a victim, is a challenging, if not a very humbling, experience. We all, as human beings, have our failings. The sufferers of PTSD have more than their fair share of misgivings and misfortunes that can cause personal embarrassment and unjust criticism if directed by the uncaring or uneducated. Considering that possibility, baring such details is not an easy thing to do.

     However, the good that can come of it can be immeasurable. I find it cathartic to write about my personal exposure to war and its aftermath. I still think like a soldier. One will not defeat his enemy if he does not come to know him. That is why I write about PTSD, to learn more about it and to eventually, conquer it… so I will be ready when

     I hear the bugle call. It is a constant battle but I seem to gain ground with every small victory. Coupled with the help of the caring doctors of the VA I can now see light breaking through the shroud of depression and gloom. The road to peace and self-forgiveness is steep, strenuous and exhausting but I travel on, first one step, then another and another. It is a constant, arduous effort but I will ultimately reach my destination of inner tranquility. I pray other combat veterans and those that love them will join me in the march. Come along my fellow warriors and your true friends, just put one foot in front of the other, again, then yet again. Forward, march on determinedly forward, to the final victory of understanding, acceptance and peace. Then you too, my brothers, will be ready… “WHEN YOU HEAR THE BUGLE CALL”

About the Author

Peter S. Griffin, enlisted in the U.S. Army on 13 March 1964 and was honorably discharged on 10 March 1967. His unit assignments were Company A, 2/502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division and Company C, 2/505th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. On Memorial Day weekend, 1998, he was inducted into the 502nd Infantry Distinguished Members of the Regiment, Halls of Fame, in a ceremony at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. He served on the 101st Airborne Association, Fort Campbell, Kentucky Monument Committee, helping to establish a Division Monument to honor all Screaming Eagles, past, present and future.
 
After discharge Peter Griffin attended the Police Academy at Syracuse, New York and served as a Police Officer for the Oswego Police Department (New York) for over ten years. Peter Griffin is the author of When You Hear The Bugle Call: Battling PTSD and the Unraveling of the American Conscience.

 

 

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