THE VETERAN-CIVILIAN DISCONNECT |
April 23, 2012
Name: Ian Wolfe
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Why is there this disconnect between veterans and the rest of the country? I once thought I was alone in this feeling, that maybe it was just me who felt disconnected from society, that it was nothing related to my being a veteran. But as I talked with more vets, and read articles by vets, I found that I was not alone.
Some have related it to anesthesia of the populace in regards to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; the distance and seeming unaffectednesss of the American people. Generally speaking, the American public endured no physical or emotional affects unless they were close to someone involved. It isn’t like WWII; there was no sense of communal involvement. It isn’t like Vietnam; it hasn’t quite inspired the emotions evoked by that conflict. It is something different, something unique, distant and fiction-like, able to be put out of mind. The Abrams doctrine, which held that when you send your military to war you take your whole country to war, is gone. The masses are anaesthetized from war now. We alone bear the burden, along with our famlies.
Others have discussed the idea of a “warrior class," the emergence of a new population which is becoming increasingly isolated on military bases due to the unique position they are put in, which the rest of the population knows little about -- just enough, usually, to use the idea as a tool for politics. It's often when some scandal is found that the populace becomes concerned with what we are doing, so we are only recognized in shame, leaving our own storytelling to try and prove we are not the sum of our worst.
I have no answers, except the feeling that I am not alone. At which I am both rejoiceful and fearful. I am not sure what it means for us, and for the country. How does a measly two-year deployment to Iraq change me so much? Or maybe it didn’t change me at all. Maybe I just see things differently now.
But maybe the split between the path of the country and the path of the veteran is worth looking into. Maybe it is for the better. For the veteran knows the world better then the fantasy the populace glimpses through edited news programming; a snippet forgotten quickly with the commercial break and the latest celebrity gossip.
I joke often that I might be dead inside. It gets some laughs, and I laugh too, for I know it is not the case, not entirely. But I do feel different. I feel indifferent to things I feel society thinks I should care more about. I have little patience for things I feel are stupid or bureaucratic. The holiday seasons often drag along like a chore.
I find myself wishing to go back. But the closest I can get is as a nurse on a burn unit. I often want to stay, the trauma being the only thing that inspires a sense of importance or emotion, of something real. I don’t know what this is or what this means, but I know there are many people who feel the same way. Call it disaffection, irritation, depression -- whatever it is, it is inspiring a generation of veterans, for better or worse. With the suicide rate of veterans increasing I wonder if it is leaning towards the worse. But it could be fostered into something great for this country. Maybe this country needs people who feel disconnected, disaffected, and different, to lead the way into our future.