Several days later I am still sickened over news of a tragic incident I learned of this weekend. Chris Kyle, a highly decorated Navy SEAL sniper with four tours of duty in Iraq was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh, a veteran Marine that he was trying to help cope with the horrors of the war from which he had recently returned. I’m saddened because a hero who saved countless American lives was murdered while trying to help those most in need, and I’m appalled because this heinous act was committed by one of my fellow Marines.
For what it’s worth, I do not think Routh should receive special treatment because he was suffering from PTSD. Our armed forces are held to a higher standard regardless of the circumstances we face. Routh clearly did not receive sufficient help to cope with the struggles he faced, but that does not in any way absolve him of responsibility for his actions.
Kyle’s incident garnered national media coverage because he was a member of an elite military unit, the author of the best-selling book, American Sniper, and was murdered by a fellow veteran suffering PTSD, however, there are thousands of other veterans who suffer because of PTSD with little or no media coverage. Kyle was certainly doing his part to help our veterans returning from the war, but the question that sticks in my mind is “Who is responsible for helping our veterans return to a normal life?”
Is it our politicians’ responsibility? They repeatedly send our troops to fight protracted wars and demand far more sacrifice than should ever be expected from anyone, so the answer is yes. Our politicians are responsible, but I have zero faith in their ability or dedication to providing the care our veterans need. They are eager to send our troops into harms way, but are just as quick to toss them aside when they come home broken, traumatized, and scarred. If you’ve ever been inside a VA hospital, you’d understand why I feel this way. Relying on them is like being the guy in a full body cast saying “But I had the right of way.” You’re technically right, but you’re still screwed.
Is it our military’s responsibility? Again, yes, but they can’t because they’re too busy fighting constant wars; it takes a lot more than a few classes and counseling sessions. I know plenty of people who never faced combat, yet still had a tough transition back to civilian life, so you can imagine what it must be like for those who spent years expecting death around every corner. You can’t just jump back into civilian life as if nothing had ever happened. That would be like asking the victim of domestic abuse to join Match.com and go see what’s out there—you know, just get back on the horse and stop dwelling on the past. That’s ludicrous.
I think it’s the responsibility of fellow veterans who have successfully adjusted to civilian life, because quite frankly, I don’t trust anyone else to do it. I proudly and willingly accept that responsibility. We understand military life and its challenges because we’ve served, but we also understand civilian life and what it takes to move from one world to the other. We know what returning veterans are going through, we know how to communicate with them, and we share a special bond that only those who served could ever understand. It’s up to us to help our brothers and sisters return to safe, happy, and productive lives. You would have fought and died for the warrior by your side on the battlefield; let’s do the same on the home front.
If you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone; I was in the same position when I first started helping. Check back soon because I will be publishing a list of reputable veteran organizations that will enable you to get involved at the ground level, face to face with our vets, but in the meantime, give your local VFW a call because a lot of veterans pass through there for a variety of resources.
And civilians—remember that millions of brave men and women have sacrificed more than you can possibly imagine while putting their lives on the line to keep you safe at home. The least you can do is help ease their transition back into civilian life. Find a local veterans organization and offer your support, time, and if possible donations. Even if you don’t agree with a particular war being waged (Lord knows I don’t agree with many of them), while the politicians who send our troops into combat routinely violate their own oaths of office, our troops don’t. If they chose to leave, you would be left with no protection from countless countries who would love to harm Americans.