RANGER AGAINST WAR: God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman <

Monday, December 22, 2014

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

 They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy 
--God Rest Ye Marry Gentlemen 

Paciencia y barajar 
(Have patience, and keep shuffling the deck) 
--Miguel De Cervantes

 Chapter 4 
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it. 

Chapter 5 
I walk down another street. 

--fr. Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, 
Portia Nelson 

Innocence behind his broken expression
He's a child of mercy, he's our unlearned lesson
And he's trying to wake up from this wilderness
his world is now become
--War at Home, Josh Groban

Subtitle: SEREne

This post is written for a soldier Ranger has never met.

It is prompted by reading David Finkel's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Thank You for Your Service, in which the author wrote about the terrible psychic and physical wounds suffered by the returning combat veterans of one formerly deployed unit from the Iraq War, and the institutional roadblocks to their welfare.

This is written from a soldier's perspective:

How does a combat soldier deal with the trauma he experiences, and go on to live a normal life? The answer -- contrary to what the counselors tell us -- is that we don't. While we definitely (the fortunate of us) learn to live with our reality, we will never be normal. We did what society told us to do, and those were often not good things, things that in the civilian world are quite bad.

Combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes from realizing that nothing good comes from elective wars, and that you have been operative in bringing on the ensuing havoc. One feels stress because the actions executed are not consonant with our views of ourselves as good human beings.

Though elective wars are not about national survival, the ensuing personal wars are totally about the individual's survival. Here are some of Ranger's tips for life in "survival mode":

[1] Stripped to basics, treat daily life as a Survival Escape, Resistance and Evasion (SERE) exercise. If depressed or feeling like withdrawing, force yourself to act like you are in a Prisoner of War cage. Wash, brush, walk or exercise -- leave the house. Eat a meal out just to be around and observe other people. They are not the enemy (though they may seem sloppy.)

[2] Do not drink alcohol to excess. Ranger now drinks moderately, but when he could not he used the mantra, "Alcohol will kill me as sure as an enemy bullet." Try and stay away from drugs of all kinds, both legal and street.

[3] If you feel your gears slipping, seek help. You cannot survive a clinically-depressed state alone. This recognition and action requires strength beyond the norm. VA counseling is available and is a good first step, but VA counselors work for the VA and not you. Counseling in the civilian world provides another perspective, and usually is available on a sliding fee basis or through community mental health centers if funds are an issue.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), ALANON and religious organizations also provide another good outlet for gaining perspective, support and self-understanding.

[3] Remove temptations to self-harm. Do not be baited into a fight, verbal or otherwise; you have nothing to prove; you also have nothing to win. Keep weapons at a distance, not ready to hand. I do not carry a gun on my person.

[4] Avoid violence as much as possible in entertainment choices. As a result, most television programs are unacceptable. Ditto much of what parades as television news, as it prompts a depressingly false perspective of a world as populated by violent freaks. Most talk radio is also unhelpful. Listen to calming music.

These media outlets stoke in us the negative and hopeless feelings that keep us in thrall to Big Pharma. The goals is not to become a user of any dope.

[5] Contra conventional wisdom, do not shoot. Ranger has stopped shooting competitively and does not hunt. The act of shooting (and killing) is too evocative of what we are trying to suppress. Weapons are not needed for recreation, and our identity need not revolve around out excellence at the skill which wrought our problems. At our level, weapons are tools that we should hold in reserve unless our survival requires them. 
[6] If possible, adopt a dog, and preferably a rescued animal. The needs of the animal will take you out of yourself, and his needs will humble you. The ever-present spectre of your own needs will recede as you begin to forefront another being in your care, one whom you will come to realize is more needy than yourself. You will feel gratification as your friendship grows, and as you see the healing process take place external to you.

Once you have gained a grip on your basic personal needs, you can begin thinking about your human relationships.

We come by our trauma legitimately but we need not spread it like a virus.  If you cannot live with yourself, Ranger suggests you live alone, understanding that for those in a marriage this may not be technically possible. (But don't isolate yourself, as previously mentioned.) If you must cohabit, some sort of understanding should be emplaced which allows you the space you will now need to reconstruct and re-integrate yourself. Trust yourself before you trust anyone else.

Don't try to be happy, just try to be.

These idiosyncratic tips have worked for Ranger, but only you will know what is best for you. Please do not forget that we are lucky and fortunate to be alive, so don't waste that chip on a poor hand or careless betting. Honor our fallen comrades by living the best life they would have wished for you, and for themselves.

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Anonymous mike said...

A good prescription.

Monday, December 22, 2014 at 2:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim hruska said...

HNY to you.

Monday, December 22, 2014 at 3:05:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

And if you live where you can't have a dog, get a kitten. It'll put an endless smile on your face.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 3:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ranger, all good advice even for those without depression or PTSD.

Jay in N.C.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 4:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim hruska said...

i say dog, but i really mean =any animal.
the key is to focus outwardly on another living being.
in the last 40 years i've had cats,dogs , horses,cattle and now i feed the wild animals on my land.
thanks for staying with us all these years.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 9:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, Lisa best wishes for the New Year!


Friday, December 26, 2014 at 8:24:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Dear Carl,

All the best for 2015 to you!

Lisa & Jim

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 3:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Podunk Paul said...

Jim and Lisa, best wishes for the New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 5:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Happy New Year 2015, to Jay and Paul.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 10:25:00 PM GMT-5  

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