Finding a New Normal

The following article was written by Melissa’s Great-Aunt Ruth Anne Moller.

As published in The Miller Press November 10, 2010.
R.A.M.ifications: Finding a new normal

How easy it is to take things for granted. Maybe it’s our health, or water from the tap, or knowing when we flick the switch, the light will come on.

I–at least–am also guilty of too often taking for granted all that we have in this “land of the free.” Voting, religious freedom, a free press, and so much more we accept as our due. Those freedoms have always been there for me; I never had to do anything to earn them, except be born in the U.S.A. And gripe all you wish about the state of the nation, we still have so much to be grateful for (including the freedom to gripe).
I sailed through my early years without much thought about how we arrived at being “free.” The “war to end all wars” didn’t end a thing. World War II was over. I barely remember anything about the Korean War.

But Vietnam caught my attention. A boy I taught when I was 22 (and he was 18) went off to war…and lost the use of his legs. My husband’s nephew served in the Marines, and though he was not wounded, he still bore scars. I got to know several Vietnam vets, and I realized many would never be quite the same again.

The husband of my great-niece was a healthy guy who was employed with the Aberdeen fire department and was a paramedic. He voluntarily went to Desert Storm, then Bosnia with the Reserves. He then voluntarily went to Iraq.

There, he sustained traumatic brain injury in an explosion, and also suffered from waste-pit fumes. He has chronic PTSD and depression. He is legally blind. He has constant stomach pain. He is forgetful. And there are several other conditions directly related to service. His wife-a first-grade teacher-has taken a year off from teaching to help Sean try to make adjustments.

They have been going around and around in circles since Sean was injured, trying to somehow get answers, get aid, get relief from pain.

Melissa has a lengthy blog on the Internet. It is tragic to read, but it is also a testimony to strength. After she viewed, “When the War Comes Home,” Melissa quoted from it: “There ought to be more songs about those soldiers whose war is never over, who made it home but never quite came back…oughta be more songs ’bout that.”

It is easier to relate to a person or a situation you know, so as I read Melissa’s blog (http://war-relatedillnessandinjury.blogspot.com/) it brings things closer to home, and also magnifies the fact that Sean and Melissa are part of the much bigger picture of what veterans sometimes face.
She sums up their life today: “In many cases when soldiers return home, life does not get back to normal. Instead, we must learn to live with, and adapt to, a new normal.”

Despite all the turmoil, Melissa states, “Sean LOVED being a soldier. He used to say they would have to kick him out of the Army at age 60. He would have gladly deployed 10 more times and done his duty to his country.”
So, this Veterans’ Day, people will again fly the flag, make speeches, perhaps play patriotic music. But it is also a perfect time to truly, truly think about what we have, what we enjoy, and what we take for granted. Thank a soldier; thank all the soldiers, and not just on special days. Then take a deep breath and breathe in the air that is “freedom.” Never take it for granted.

“None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.” ~Pearl S. Buck


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