Tag Archives: choice

Simple Choice

There was simplicity of a crisp, stark January morning of my youth that I miss, today. It was not that mornings on a WI dairy farm of the fifties were easy, for life held to a thread of shelter from the cold. It was that necessity simplified the choices: Certain things had to be done without exception or equivocation. We simply did them.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

It has been my goal since youth to simplify my worldview (long before I knew I had one) to a form I could understand. I do not wish to simplify the universe. I choose to simplify my model of the universe so that it makes sense to me. I have done the same with the meaning of life.

“The meaning of life is choice.” To the dismay of many students and the amusement of others, this statement has appeared and continues to appear on many of my exams. Students are free to choose “true” or “false” for their answer, and therein resides the meaning of the test item.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Simplicity is not easy and the choice of simplicity is not often the easy choice to make. It is routinely easier to choose the common, culturally accepted, trendy way of material complication and social drama. It is easier because we do not have to dare individuality. That is where the complication begins.

The laws of the universe are simple. We make them complicated looking for ways around them. We waste the years of our lives searching for ways to extend the years of our lives. We waste time and material trying to protect time and material. We waste our passion looking for the passionate.

Live. Today.

Simple, yes. Easy, no. That is our choice.

There is profound simplicity in acceptance of the personal reality of our present. Acceptance is abundance, and abundance is absence of poverty.

A spiritual person is never alone. Solitude is grandeur, Nature is cathedral, and reality is blessing.

Solitude and people are not mutually exclusive. By simple choice, I can enjoy solitude in a crowd. Also by choice, I can share the peace of solitude with willing others.

Simplicity undefines poverty for simplicity is its own abundance. There is need for neither material complication nor social drama.

Acceptance of simplicity undefines strength as competition for status and stuff evaporate. There we realize power—true, personal power.

Can you ignore the still, small voice inside you that mutters agreement with my claims?

Can you deny the tracks and traces of joys remembered of simpler times?

Seek the evidence within.

Happy Tracking

Chains of Choice

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Because choices have consequences and we all know that—deep down where truth cannot be denied.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

My life has been long, rich, rewarding, challenging, interesting, and punctuated by momentous choices from which, singly and in concert, has cascaded consequences for which I am responsible.

In 1963 I chose to participate in a six week Summer Science Training Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. That led to enrolling there, jobs, degrees, more jobs, more degrees, and a whole lot of experiences that contributed to who I am, today.

In 1964 I chose to ask a classmate to marry me. That led to marriage, children, and grandchildren.

In 1968 I chose to enlist in the Army and almost immediately give up my guaranteed enlistment as a Chemical Staff Specialist to become an Infantry Officer, a Green Beret, and a Vietnam Veteran.

In 1971 I chose to take an early out from the Army and return to UW.

In 1979 I chose to return to school to get certified to teach secondary science.

In 1980 I chose to take a job teaching in Beaver Dam, relocate, and remarry.

In 1988 I chose to go back to school, again, to learn how to be a better teacher.

In 2000 I chose to finish my high school teaching career and retire in 2001.

In 2001 I chose to finish my dissertation and earned my PhD in 2002.

In 2005 I chose to relocate in Yuma for winters to be nearer grandchildren in San Diego.

In 2008 I chose to build a house in Yuma and become an Arizona Resident.

In 2012 I chose to read the help wanted ads in The Yuma Sun, then apply for and accept a job at NAU-Yuma as an Assistant Clinical Professor.

Choices have consequences. Each choice we make opens some doors and closes others. I don’t know about you, but I have never been clever or wise enough to foresee those consequences with any clarity.

And for every choice I made in freedom, I bore the responsibility for the consequences.

Oh, sure, there are always limitations to liberty (Selective Service comes to mind) but I still had many personal liberties of choice within those constraints.

Our options of choice rise in crescendo and then begin to fade like the years of our lives slipping past. I can never be an airline pilot. That ship sailed forty-some years ago when I chose to not complete my application for flight school. But, who knows? That might have meant getting shot down and killed in Vietnam.

I can never be a police officer, a medical doctor, or President of the United States. I can only be the me that is the result of my choices. All I have to give to the world is the me I am becoming. That is charity.

I believe all these choices came from one very deep personal intention of my adolescence. To this day I do not know if I decided or simply admitted that what I wanted to do with my life was to understand the universe. I do know that the paths I have chosen have taught me more than that high school boy could have imagined.

This is why I write—to find out what I am thinking. This is why I teach, because nothing teaches me as much as trying to figure out what to teach others and to hear what others are thinking. This is why I feel blessed, because I have followed a passion of my youth, with a few missteps and dead ends, to a place of greater understanding, and that gives me liberty to share my experiences with others in ways which might help them choose in harmony with their passions.

Deep down inside you, what is a passion of your youth?

Happy Tracking!

Spiritual Honesty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. September looks at honesty.

I love cedar swamps. In them, it is easy to find the god of my understanding. Perhaps because they contain so few human tracks. Perhaps because I find it easy to get lost in them.

There have been times in my life when I felt as though I were lost in a cedar swamp in a fog on a moonless night. I had been walking on a raised logging road but wandered off. Now, I had no idea which way to turn to find that road.

Tall trees covered me in shadows from starlight smothered by fog. No wind. There was absence of reference.

My eyes blinked to no avail. There was nothing to see, nothing to feel.

No, not true. I could feel something deep down inside.

Cedar swamps have pitfalls. There are holes between the tree roots, deep holes filled with water and sometimes covered with floating plants. It is easy to step in one so deep your foot cannot find a bottom. It is an interesting experience in daylight.

How can I find my way out, assuming I want to. I have heard Tom Brown Jr. say that you are only lost if you have someplace to go and some time to get there. He attributed it to his Apache mentor, Stalking Wolf.

Have you ever had no place to go and no time to get there? Funny thing about such a condition. It is conducive to comprehending spirituality.

“Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”(Vine Deloria Jr.)

Lost in that cedar swamp in fog on a moonless night is an opportunity to get honest with one’s self. I can feel my way with my feet. I can reach out for the next tree. Or, I can take a deep but gentle breath, exhale, and ask for help. If I want to get out of the swamp, I can ask a simple question. “Which way should I go?”

No answer. Spirituality is not easy like that. It is simpler. For the primitive spirituality of gut feeling, all that is required is a simpler question: “Is this the way?”

I face a direction and ask that simple question and wait for the feeling in my gut. My gut is tight. That translates, “No.”

I turn (clockwise because my question is a prayer and I honor the customs of my Native American grandteacher, Stalking Wolf) and ask the question, again. I do not utter the words, only feel the question in my heart.

I have a friend, a veteran of WWII, who shares a quote from one of his teachers. “Prayer is a sincere desire of the heart.” If my wish to find my way out of this swamp is a sincere desire of the heart, it is prayer.

Honesty is a raindrop. Spiritual honesty is honesty from the heart, such as a teardrop.

I turn and feel the question. I wait for the answer. Any release of that feeling of tension in my gut is, “Yes.” That is the way I step, again and again, until I step upon the road.

The honesty required is, first, to admit I am lost; second, that I no longer want to be lost; third, that on my own, I will stay lost. Then, I have to get viscerally honest. What is the sincere desire of my heart? Finally, I have to be honest enough to accept my gut feeling to sense that release of tension.

I love cedar swamps. I do not mind being lost in them. But, I do not choose to wander into them on foggy, moonless nights.

Sometimes the tracks we need to find are in our own hearts. Happy tracking.

Choosing Love

It ain’t easy, this love stuff. The instruction manuals are not written in English. Maybe that’s why some of us need dogs and little children to teach us how to do it. Labrador Retrievers are really good at it.

Dr. Hart counsels Combat Veterans upon the hazards of getting stuck in our combat roles. If we had a lot of responsibility in combat, we tend to take on responsibility back at home. If we had little responsibility in combat, we tend to avoid it at home.

Me? I tend to get stuck in the middle. I was a Lieutenant.

I do not like making decisions—at least, not alone. I tend to feel traumatized, as though I were still deciding who would die, or afraid I might make a mistake and the wrong people would die. Life or death choices are not for me.

I taught school and got sick every semester at grading time. Imagine how I would have done as a surgeon or emergency room physician. I couldn’t even be a paramedic although I know biology and have a knack for diagnosis and triage. So, I avoided it.

After several viewings, Forrest Gump still amazes me. He always knows what love is. He always seems to know the right thing to do—good at life, you know. Of course, when he didn’t know, he ran for a few thousand miles. I tend to sit in the woods and listen to the wind.

One reason Combat Veterans isolate themselves is because we see people as more dangerous than lions, tigers, and bears. Fear is that reason, and it makes sense in combat terms.

Another reason is love. Yes, this is another dilemma. Love is the antidote for PTSD, but it also causes us to isolate. I have found two reasons for this.

First, loving and losing is painful. It goes back to the avoidance of FNGs, the new guys. People who have experienced combat loss of friends simply choose not to make new ones. It hurts less when they die.

Back at home, we lose all our friends. They get reassigned or ETSed (Expiration of Term of Service). So, even if we all make it home, we lose each other, anyway.

Second, being loved is also painful. Oh, sure, it feels wonderful to have an intimate friend, someone we can trust, but….

Isn’t there always a but? Being loved is a big responsibility—because it entails power. Being loved gives us the power to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt someone. For Combat Veterans stuck in the middle (between seeking responsibility and avoiding it), this is another dilemma.

Now, add some symptoms of Combat PTSD. The Veteran is certain to disappoint, fail, or otherwise hurt the very people who love him or her. We cannot help it. Our brains have been trained, even re-wired, that way. After awhile, we get very tired of failing at love. So, we avoid it—the very thing that might support our recovery.

Love is a grave vulnerability for most Combat Veterans because it threatens us with more loss, both loss of our loved ones and loss of ourselves when our disabilities fail us in love.

We cannot recover alone. We need love, but we need more. We need understanding. We need mature love beyond philos of brotherly love and way beyond eros of sexual attraction. We need a Natural love.

We must relearn that failure is not terminal. And, we need friends who can accept our defects and failures as progress.

When a Combat Veteran returns without an arm, we no longer expect him or her to applaud. When a Combat Veteran returns with a shrunken hippocampus and working memory, with an aggressive amygdala, and a need for security, we must not expect her or him to enjoy party crowds, fireworks displays, and air shows. It is us, the people who stayed home this time, who must change our expectations.

Changing our expectations is a way of choosing love which just might grant the Combat Veteran freedom to choose love, again. Is that too much to ask, America?

Love Echoes

There are spaces between the trees, today, where my friend and companion of thirteen and a half years no longer walks. Our Yellow Lab, Serenity, has passed from the pain of this physical world, and her absence leaves a void.

Across that void I feel the echoes of her love. That love lives. It touches me. And, I reach back.

Love is like that. It transcends. It echoes across the void, reverberating softly without end.

Spring flowers come and go. Trees endure a few more years. Even rocks become sand and silt carried to the sea. But love remains. I can feel it upon the land.

We leave tracks, you and I, physical tracks upon the Earth, emotional tracks upon the hearts, and spiritual tracks upon the void. We cannot do otherwise.

PTSD is a kind of reverberation; echoes of tracks from our past, only these were not the tracks of love. I think we can just leave it at that.

Some words attributed to Chief Seattle haunt me: Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe. Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore in solemn grandeur thrill with memories of past events…. (I do not use quotes because Seattle did not speak English.)

The wake of a Combat Veteran riding wildly through the noradrenergic dysregulation of the brain’s limbic system, a Dinosaur Dump, is turbid turmoil. It is stressful. PTSD generates more PTSD.

Love is the antidote. That, I conclude, is the whole point of this inquiry into love beyond Eros.

But, love lost is painful. I miss Serenity. I cannot touch her, hear her, see her, smell her.

Or, can I?

Love leaves tracks. I know that.

There are places I love and places I do not. Some places make me nauseous. Some call me back, again, and again.

I believe the last time I grieved a loss such as this, when I said goodbye to Serenity, was the day I said goodbye to my little farm in Cambridge, WI. I lost more than land, that day. I lost all the tracks on that land.

Twenty years I searched for more land until I noticed an ad for this place in da Nort’ Woods. I did not buy this land. The land adopted me and I inherited all the tracks upon it.

A year later, a puppy adopted us. Her tracks are upon this land, her best memories in the woods and water (and, mud) of this place. I cannot own these. I can only accept the responsibility to care for them for a little while longer.

There are many days when I feel I have made enough tracks. Including today. That, however, is not my choice to make. My choices are only what kind of tracks I leave, today, and how I care for the tracks left by others.

Today, I choose love, and I believe Serenity is happy about that. I feel it in the echoes.

Perfect

I think I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree, (leading couplet from Trees, by Joyce Kilmer)

No tree is perfect. I have looked. All my life.

I have studied trees, climbed them, planted them, pruned and trimmed them. I have chopped them down, picked them up, carved them, and burned them. I have bathed in their shade, hidden in their branches, ducked under them, leaned against them, and hugged them. I have even written a poem or two about them, notably imperfect.

I love trees. I own about a million of them. For real. Our several acres of Northern Forest in Wisconsin is recovering from logging a few decades ago, and many thousand Quaking Aspen and Balsam Fir grow here, along with many Sugar Maples, Paper White Birch, Black Ash, White Spruce, a few White Cedars, Red and White Pines, American Larch (Tamarack), some Slippery Elm, and one big Red Oak. Have I missed anybody? Oh, a couple American Linden (Basswood) and a few I may be forgetting.

Not one is perfect. One White Pine has two heads. A favorite Red Pine is so crooked we call it Dancing Pine (or, Kokopelli Pine). Most are irregular due to shading, crowding, insects, and disease. Some are in the wrong places for my human purposes (I can’t see through them down the stream valley to watch critters).

The forest is…perfect, I mean. No, my forest is not the best forest. Perfection is not a competition. Nor, is my woods better than what it will become. It is perfect in its becoming.

A forest is not a thing as people think about things. In the first place, it is many, many things—different kinds of things, living and nonliving (in Western cosmology), finned, feathered, furred, and green, brown, and colorless. But, more than that, a forest is a process.

With the movement of accent one syllable, the adjective becomes a verb: to perfect, to complete or make nearly perfect.

That is a forest, any forest. It is a process of becoming better, growing into a more perfect community.

I call my woods Lonesome Pines because that is more poetic and less gruesome than Pine Bones. The massive logging of our native White Pines, scattering discarded branches among the tops, resulted in terrible fires. The fires charred the stumps, preserving them for many, many decades. I walk among them in reverence.

Today, I also amble among growing trees. Sure, many of the Aspen and Balsam die and fall, but others grow. I found two new Tamaracks in the swamp just this morning. We celebrated, the forest and me. We are living a process of perfection. We are getting better—recovering, if you will.

No human is perfect. No marriage or nation is without flaw or dysfunction. But, then, again, these are not things. They are processes. We are acts of perfection.

I write this on a Fourth of July, and I marvel at the process of these United States of America. Our Constitution is not perfect. Our forefathers were men of flaws. But, this process of growth, of constantly re-inventing ourselves, of becoming a more perfect union—that is what this holiday is to me.

Combat Veterans understand imperfection. See, the thing about combat is, when we do it right, somebody dies. When we do it wrong, somebody else dies. Right or wrong, we risk dying, ourselves. Combat is like logging a forest: everybody suffers.

Recovery is like re-growth, a process perfection, of becoming more perfect, and we aren’t done, yet. It grieves this critical old Veteran to witness America’s focus on imperfections rather than on the process of perfection. We can do better, America, you and me—and that is all life really means, making choices to become better.

Happy Birthday, America. We’re growing up.

Love Antidote

For all of us who sometimes feel too much love, who find ourselves bursting with gratitude and compassion, who feel nurtured by our natural and social worlds, or who wonder what we ever did to deserve such blessings, calm down. There is an antidote to this thing called love.

Wonder why a blog that is supposed to be about recovery from combat PTSD devotes months to investigating various kinds of love?

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” (Anne Lamott)

In the personal experience and education of this old warrior, PTSD includes a tendency to fear and hate people and their institutions. Triggers of major PTSD symptoms seem to have one thing in common: They elicit overwhelming feelings of vulnerability.

And vulnerability initiates a cascade of feelings and physiological manifestations of emotions resulting in reflex fight or flight.

Hate is one way of fighting. We focus out attention on a person or group as the icon of threat, the cause of our anxiety, the reason for our unhappiness. We blame.

Combat Veterans with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress tend to isolate, to shun people as dangerous and threatening. But, humans are social animals compelled to seek reinforcement of our feelings and emotions. We search for justification of our hate. We find others who share or may be convinced to share our feelings.

We are at war, identifying and targeting our enemies, and are conscripting comrades.

Talking heads justify us and our hate, saying things that sound like and reinforce our emotions. We find others who listen and nod.

Those who disagree are enemies.

We are cured of this great threat, this feeling that overwhelms us, this humbling sense of gratitude called love.

Because love is vulnerability. So, we choose hate, and our lives descend into spiraling darkness and despair that feed our hate until we do something regrettable.

Or, not. There is a choice we may not manage to make alone. Care to help?

Love Rules

YOU CAN’T SAY, “YOU CAN’T PLAY.” (Vivian Gussin Paley, 1993)

It is true that I never had an opportunity to attend kindergarten. In fact, I never attended a school stratified by age until I was a teenager.

I grew up and learned within a family structure—at home and at school.

As the youngest of a farm family of six children, and the youngest by a few years, I was always included in the family activities. My brothers and sisters just took me along. It seemed natural to me.

Only once in my early life, as I recall, was I excluded from play. I believe I was told that there was one too many people in the sand box, and that that one was me. I did not understand.

This kind of thing did not happen in my home. It also did not happen at Sanborn Hill School. Everybody played—boys, girls, first graders and eighth graders, fast and slow.

Apparently this is not true in most kindergartens. As described by the author, children frequently told other children that they could not play. Some children were excluded from a lot of games and activities. It occurred to this veteran teacher that such exclusion seemed too harsh and not acceptable.

She made a rule that you can’t say, “You can’t play.”

Before installing the rule, the teacher discussed the rule with not only her class, but several other classes up to fifth grade. The children did not think it would work.

Here is the scary part: Older elementary students thought it might work for the little kids because they were nicer, but it wouldn’t work for the older kids.

My first conclusion is that children know that it is not nice to exclude people because you don’t like them or because they are not your friends.

My second conclusion is that children believe that they, themselves, are not nice—even though they were nice when they were small. There is a kind of fatalistic attitude of moral decline that the children see as outside of their control.

Parents, teachers, grandparents, this is our job. Children need the gift of rules. People need the gift of rules at any age. The big question becomes who shall make these rules?

Not children and not old people who act like children.

Vivian Gussin Paley’s experiment with this rule in her kindergarten class went well. Children loved it. Many continued the rule into adulthood.

There was a relief from the tyranny of exclusion, not only for those excluded, but for those who felt they had an obligation to exclude non-friends from activities with their friends—a palpable feeling of relief is how I heard the author describe the classroom after the rule came to be.

We can study and postulate social theory, but I think it is quite simple: Love feels good.

We all want to be good, kind, nice people. We just don’t know how. We don’t know the rules, or we are too weak to enforce them upon ourselves. True freedom in the form of individual agency depends upon a socially responsible ethic.

So, like me or not, “Do you want to play?”

Brave Love

“Love is the absence of judgment.” (Dalai Lama)

I am compelled to judge, and therein lies the rub. It is the vulnerability inherent in our human condition. A vulnerability that is exponentially increased by trauma.

Reminder: This blog series is dedicated to love, the various kinds of love beyond the romantic and erotic that support personal growth and healing, especially the healing of invisible wounds from Combat PTSD.

There was one incident in the flat, swampy area of Vietnam, a place unfamiliar to me with people also unfamiliar—and two dead VC. I saw a man, without a shirt, wading the ditch in front of me and I sighted my M-16 on his back. I hesitated. He lived. Another man beside me recognized him as American and intervened.

Power demands judgment. I don’t mean only that power ought to require judgment, but that it necessarily does.

Vulnerability challenges judgment.

Rifle in hand, or the mathematics of an artillery fire direction center (or console of a drone), a person is left with the choice to shoot or not shoot. Always, that choice. A choice made in the split of an instant.

To hesitate may mean to die. To not hesitate oft means to kill. So we judge with the speed and absence of thought of our reptilian brain, perceptions shunted by our amygdala to action without thought. Because, to think is to risk death.

Primitive judgment is required in combat (and other dangerous situations such as a Boston marathon).

Mature judgment is required for the rest of life.

We are all compelled to judge. How, then, do we ever love?

If I could be in Madison, WI, this May, I would listen for clues from the Dalai Lama. I expect he can help us with this conundrum. I expect lots of wise people can.

It is a Post Traumatic Stress Dilemma. I will propose one hypothesis. Judgment has shades. We must judge our vulnerability. We must notice our surrounding, people and behaviors, and report suspicious perceptions. We must intervene, for the corollary is not necessarily true: Judgment is not the absence of love.

But, we need not pre-judge. We need not categorize all Vietnamese (fill in your own ethnic, religious, or political group) as our enemy. That is fear, not love.

We must not blame. We must not judge sick people as bad. Sure, we have the right and the compulsion to do so, but it is unhealthy. That is a form of judgment that excludes love from us.

We do that. Vulnerable people often choose isolation without love as the preferred alternative to vulnerability. Love with vulnerability or judgment without love, another Post Traumatic Stress Dilemma.

I leave you with this question. What is required of us to accept the vulnerability without judgment that allows love to touch us and us to touch love? What?

Hint: My answer is a single syllable.

Soils of War

“All’s fair in love and war.” (Francis Edward Smedley in Hart, 2000, p. 124)

A few years ago, my daughter handed me a book and said, “You should read this, Dad.”

I did. Cold Mountain so impressed me that I prefer to believe that my novel is a similar genre. What I see as one of the themes depicted in a climax scene reappears in my Beyond the Blood Chit. It is a theme I have never heard anyone else discuss.

Reminder: For the past few months, this blog has been dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

Dr. Hart says on pp. 122-123, “As a combat veteran you have been exposed to specific trauma and incidents which have changed your sense of right and wrong.” When Charles Frazier’s character came home from war, he was concerned how he might be received when people learned of the bad things he had done. Well, maybe that’s not quite true. Maybe he was troubled about how the bad things had changed him. Maybe both.

A few weeks after the traumatic events of the Tet Offensive of 1968, hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed near My Lai. Lieutenant William Calley was charged with murder just before I was sent to Vietnam, and his court-martial haunted me. We wore the same rank and branch insignia.

His troops had violated the “Rules of Engagement” of our police action. Contrary to the initial quote, above, war does have rules. People break them.

John Kerry was chastised for saying that we all committed atrocities. It is a matter of definition. When you look at an enemy’s brain on the ground beside his head, literally blown out by a machine gun burst, it looks and feels atrocious—regardless of the legality or adherence to rules of engagement. What others may do to a body can be even more atrocious and equally unforgettable.

Restrictive rules of engagement also increase the vulnerability of combatants. Our troops are trapped between death and rules. Sometimes, rules lose.

Dr. Hart points out, “Because of this, there is an opportunity for psychopaths to come to dominate both formal and informal power structures in a combat setting.” You have seen this in many war movies, although you may not have taken notice.

Witnessing an atrocity feels like complicity, like committing it, yourself.

Dr. Hart reminds us in group that only good people feel guilty. Most of us went to war with a personal moral compass, our own rules of engagement. Many of us could not live up to them. We came home with the concerns of the main character in Cold Mountain, uncertain of our own moral compass, doubtful as to how our loved ones will misunderstand us, fearful of what we might do when feeling vulnerable. Usually, we don’t even know all this, we just react.

As Dr. Hart says, we feel tainted, soiled, and dirty.

Young Army Lieutenants are ill-equipped to prevent psychopaths from committing atrocities, especially after many had just been committed by your enemy. Psychopaths have extraordinary influence over ordinary, scared, angry, young men. That is how hundreds of women and children die in a war.

Lt. William Calley received punishment, but neither death nor long imprisonment. In fact, it appears he lived a product civilian life. I feel for him because I know, there but for the Grace of God, go I—that and the good fortune to have been persuaded by a couple of friends to go to Special Forces.

There is an indescribable sadness in a broken moral compass. Even the way people look at you hurts. It takes a long time to heal. Some of our troops do not recover. Many do.

We can help. We can stop judging them and each other as though we have perfect moral compasses. Admit it. We are all soiled. We can reach out and accept our brothers and sisters coming home. We can S.T.A.R. = Support Troops After Return.