Monday, June 27, 2011

Awareness for Wounds Without Awards

My grandfather was shot in WWII. A man who was half his size slung my grandfather over his shoulder and ferried him to safety. They were both awarded medals for their respective bravery while under enemy fire. My grandfather's Purple Heart now hangs proudly in my mother's house.

My dad found himself closer than he cared to be when a grenade exploded in Vietnam. His hearing was never the same. His own Purple Heart is presumably stowed away in a box in the basement of his house...he is the most humble, least entitled man you would ever meet.

The point is, they both received recognition for their sacrifices during times of war. They could point to a ribbon and say "look what I got." They could feel noble, standing in their decorated uniforms, with their tangible proof of a physical war wound.

But that was then. That was when wars were fought by men who didn't want to die. Rules of engagement were set and followed...each side praying to return home to wives, kids, and a parade in their honor.

Now the war is fought by men, women, and children who volunteer to die for their cause. An attack can happen anywhere and our United States military must be on their constant guard...even when walking to chow...even when sleeping. Our men and women have narrowly escaped harm and witnessed horrific acts of terrorism. But at the end of the day, there is no Purple Heart to point to on their uniforms. They can't compare surgical scars at the VFW. They are not granted special privileges back home because they returned with one less limb.

They are our faces of PTSD and often you would never know it.

But live with it for a day and, I have been told, you feel like the war rages on right there in the darkness of the living room.

I am not saying that our Veterans of previous wars did not come home with PTSD. They absolutely did. But it is time to rip away the cover of shame. Give these men and women a voice, a face, and let them tell you their stories of how fireworks become mortar attacks and a pothole can become an IED under the tire tread.

Today is PTSD Awareness Day. Every day should be PTSD Awareness Day...but we can start with just one day. Build up to 365.

Neal has never exhibited any signs of PTSD. Maybe it's his age or life experience or just plain dumb luck. Lucky that he has mostly been out of direct combat. Not many of our servicemembers have been so lucky. Unless you know someone personally enough for them to share the private Hell they live everyday, you wouldn't see the signs...and you certainly don't see any awards they have received for their sacrifices. Just remember that their wounds are just as deep as a bullet and remain much longer than a scar. They need our help too.

If you are living with PTSD or loving someone who is (or think you might be), there is no shame in getting help. There is only the torture of living in denial and ignoring the signs. Here are a few resources, but there are many, many more.

Military Missions, Inc. (founded by the mother of a Marine who is living with PTSD, she is paving the way in our community, as well as nationwide, for military personnel to receive excellent and qualified care for all of war's invisible wounds.) (an overview of PTSD, as well as links to additional resources.)

National Center for PTSD (a division of the VA, listing the signs and symptoms of PTSD, as well as the resources available through the VA.)

If you would like additional information, Laura @ Live. Laugh. Photograph. has written an excellent post today about PTSD.


  1. A very important post. There are so many ignorant people who believe that PTSD is not real. Those people are jerks. It's real and it's about time people start to recognize it.

  2. It's been going on for years. a dear friend of mine suffered with it from vietnam until his suicide. we need to do so much more.

  3. Its terrible how mental injuries often get swept under the rug when they can hurt just as much (if not more) than physical ones.

  4. This post gave me chills. Are you a West Wing fan?

  5. I have a friend whose life has been full of torment since Vietnam. Even though he got some help, he still is a broken person. This is a valuable post.

  6. PTSD is no joke and the families suffer right along with the soldier! Thank you for this post!!!

  7. Great post Allyson...and thanks for the mention. We are doing our best at Military Missions to help those living with PTSD. I just returned from a week in Washington where I met with a congressman and attended the rally, Visible Honor for Invisible Wounds, to mark the second year we have recognized PTSD Awareness Day.

  8. Brilliant post girl. Thank you for being a voice for those that might not speak up. There is no shame in seeking help for any mental health issue. Keep spreading the word.

  9. Great job! It made me cry and also made me thankful that my Chad was spared that horrific life that these men and women have to live with. Thank you.

  10. Please thank your husband for us, from all of us.

    Thank you, and God watch over him.

  11. Thank you for this, Ally. What you do to build awareness is something to be very, very proud of. And I'm glad to hear that Neal has never experienced any effects of PTSD.


  12. Thank you and your husband for your service to our country. This post is amazing and so to the point. The bi-products of war are disabilities. It's easy when you can look at a scar, but people are scarred in ways not seen by the naked eye. My husband is retired AF (25 years). Every word you've written is very important. Thank you.

  13. New to your site...was sent over by Diary. Just wanted to thank you and your family for all your sacrifices. I truly appreciate all that our armed service men and women do to keep us all safe.

    Have a happy 4th of July weekend!


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