Dealing With Veterans’ Disconnection–and Our Own

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_AND3024.NEFThe 2.4 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are all coming back, and they are bringing their “otherness” with them. Many of them return with head, body, mind, soul, and heart injury. They bring their PTSD, anger and depression, headache, soul-battered heartache, and disconnection with them.

We may try to compartmentalize them–out of sight, out of mind. We may try to keep them at a distance, even as we “thank them for their service.” But what we need to do is talk with them and learn from them. Why? Because their struggles and challenges simply magnify our own.

Their experience of learning how to live with a sense of disconnection and alienation in postmodern American culture intensifies our own experience of disconnection and alienation. Those of us who have not served in Iraq or Afghanistan may have found ways not to face it, but our veterans force us to look in the mirror. For them, the cat is out of the bag and there is no denial.
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Veterans’ Voices on the Porch: May 10 & 17

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It’s time to talk about “the elephant in the room.”  It’s time to start talking about our national responsibility to care for and support our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It may not be easy because there is lots of ambiguity surrounding all this.

In anticipation of Memorial Day, please join this conversation, which is held at All Saints’ Episcopal Church from 7-9pm on May 10th and 17th. NPR’s John Burnett will moderate our first gathering on May 10th, which includes Karl Slaikeu, an Austin based psychologist, mediator and author, who served for 12 months as Sr. Social Scientist with the US Army’s Human Terrain System in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. He co-authored “Five Questions for America to Answer about Afghanistan.”  The panel discussion that follows features Lieutenant Colonel Mike Segner, who served as the Deputy Director of Security for the “Green Zone” in Baghdad and also earned the Bronze Star among many other honors for his service.  We are also fortunate to have Austin Bay join the discussion. Austin,  author and syndicated columnist, served a total of 32 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a Colonel.

On May 17th, Jeremy Schwartz and Andrew O’Brien will tell their astonishing story. Jeremy Schwartz has written about veterans’ issues for the American-Statesman since 2009 and reported from Iraq in early 2011 and from Afghanistan in April 2012. He was part of the Statesman investigative team that determined causes of death for nearly 300 Texas Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in September 2012. One of Andrew O’Brien’s goals is to speak to service members before they leave the military, in hopes that those who are struggling as he did can relate to his story.

Guest Panelists include David W. Peters and David Scheider. David Peters served as an enlisted Marine 1994-2000 and deployed to Iraq as anArmy Chaplain in 2005. His article, “A Spiritual War: Crises of Faith in Combat Chaplains from Iraq and Afghanistan” is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Dave Scheider served 25 years as an active duty Army chaplain.