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"The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month."
– Henry Van Dyke  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 3 March 2019  

None Black Forest News   None Book Review   None Business Briefs   None Community Calendar  
None Did You Know?   None FFPD Column   None From the Publisher   None Guest Column  
None Marks Meanderings   None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains  
None Pet Care   None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Rumors  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  Thank You For Your Service
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller is a nine-year resident of Colorado. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, moved to Falcon in 2007 and are now raising their three teenage daughters in Latigo. They enjoy their home on the prairie with plenty of room for their six adopted dogs, bagpipes & Celtic Festivals and beekeeping. Mark enjoys the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.
I recently had the opportunity to watch the movie “Thank You For Your Service.” The movie chronicles three main characters (Schuman, Aieti, Waller) from a Fort Riley unit who have returned from their third deployment to Iraq. The unit had suffered casualties, which directly affect the characters and haunt them once they are home.
   The three characters leave active duty after their return. Their story personifies all that can negatively affect active duty men and women when they attempt to adjust to civilian life after multiple combat deployments. The title is rather tongue in cheek, which I will get to later.
   Waller, in addition to having suffered multiple improvised explosive device ambushes, spent his entire deployment waiting to get home and marry his fiancé. Once home, he finds his fiancé had cleaned out their apartment and his bank account. He is emotionally and mentally changed by combat, is lost, and has nothing to look forward to. Waller confronts his fiancé where she works and commits suicide in front of her. He becomes another statistic of veterans killing themselves every day. They no longer have the structure of the mission, unwittingly experience post traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury; and feel as if they are out of options.
   Aieti has been medically retired from active duty because of his traumatic brain injury after being subjected to multiple explosions during his deployments. The result of his injury is memory loss and an inability to focus. He also has a consistent and disturbing vision of their first sergeant, who was killed taking Schuman’s place on a mission. Reluctantly navigating the maze to seek help from the Veterans Administration, he is told he will have to wait six to nine months before he can be seen. Desperate for relief, Aieti turns to illicit drugs and a lifestyle 180 degrees from being a soldier.
   Schuman, while waiting in line with Aieti at the VA, is noticed by a former commanding officer. The colonel pulls Schuman aside and tells him he shouldn’t be seen in the VA trying to get help.
   Schuman was his “hammer and he needed to be back out in the field kicking ass.” Schuman is also suffering from post traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt. There remains a stigma factor of being seen as weak if mental health services are needed after combat deployments.
   Back to the title of the movie. “Thank You For Your Service” should instead be translated to “While you put it all on the line for your unit, family and country; good luck trying to seek the healing you need and deserve.”
   Combat changes you physically, mentally and emotionally. Often times it’s not only the visions of combat or the sounds and smells that trigger those memories, but the remorse tied to survivor’s guilt that plagues our combat veterans.
   Today, there is a greater understanding of PTSD and traumatic brain injury to include available therapies. That said, there is a generation of warriors still suffering and in need of help.
   The best thing we can do for veterans who we know are suffering from PTSD is to reach out and encourage them to seek help so they can find closure and heal from the wounds of war.
   Memorial Day is an official occasion to mourn and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. For many, it’s a once-a-year federal holiday — with a barbecue. However, for our combat veterans who need to heal, every day is Memorial Day.
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