Warriors: A call for the healing of veterans with PTSD

National statistics show that about one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans. About 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively. Almost 23% of returning veterans suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Yet, how many bumper stickers have we seen saying we “Support our Troops”? Something is deeply contradictory and disturbing about the plight of the veteran in modern US society.

Dr. Edward Tick, author of the groundbreaking book “War and the Soul” and founder of Soldier’s Heart, writes about how healing cannot happen in the individual soldier alone, it must come from the community honoring and having a place for the warrior. To be a warrior has spiritual meaning and should be highly valued in a society with a balanced relationship to war.

WHAT IS A WARRIOR? Excerpt from WAR AND THE SOUL By Edward Tick

“A Warrior is not just one who has been to war and returned. Warrior has been recognized as a basic ideal, pattern of thinking and behaving, and social role that has occurred since the beginning of time. Becoming a warrior is an achievement of character. A veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder can use the ideal of warriorhood as a guide and goal for healing and growth.
What are the characteristics of the warrior? The ideal warrior is assertive, active and energized. He or she is clear-minded, strategic, and alert. A warrior uses both body and mind in harmony and cooperation. A warrior is disciplined. A warrior assesses both his own resources and skills and those arrayed against him. A warrior is a servant of civilization and its future, guiding, protecting, and passing on information and wisdom. A warrior is devoted to causes he judges to be more important and greater than himself or any personal relationships or gain. Having confronted death, a warrior knows how precious and fragile life is and does not abuse or profane it.
A warrior knows what he is fighting to preserve. Like a bull buffalo flanking his herd to protect it from predators, a warrior knows he is essential to his people’s survival. He knows he belongs. He receives honor and blessing from his community for the service he willingly provides, and he in turn blesses his community with his devotion and willingness to sacrifice his life, if necessary, for its well-being.

Moreover, warriorhood must be directed toward transcendent goals. It must be based upon universal principles and connected to divine and honorable powers and purposes.

Warriors are meant to play major roles in the lives of their communities, providing help in times of need and restraining rather than encouraging violence. They need guidance from others who have been through similar experiences, and they need to pass their values, wisdom, and experiences on to younger initiates. Ideally, during all phases of service, warriors interact with their people rather than remain separate from them.

A society cannot be healthy without its warriors. And societies with a class of mature warriors to remind the leadership and people of the realities of war are healthier, stronger, and less prone to violence.
We need warriors. The call to veterans, and a way to heal post-traumatic stress disorder, is to follow the path of the honorable returned warrior.”

And, excerpted from Edward Tick’s “Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country”

“Our veterans cannot heal unless society accepts responsibility for its war making. To the veteran, our leaders and people must say, “You did this in our name, because you were subject to our orders, and because we put you in untenable and even atrocity-producing situations. We lift the burden of your actions from you and take it onto our shoulders. We are responsible for you, for what you did, and for the consequences.”

Without this transfer of responsibility, the veteran carries war’s secret grief and guilt for us all. Too many veterans collapse into a silent suffering disability and thus serve as our broken scapegoats while the rest of us proceed with “business as usual.””

Information and Resources:

National Coalition of Homeless Veterans

Soldier’s Heart: A Veteran’s Healing Project

National Center for PTSD

Iraq War Veterans Organization

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