Thoughts, Memories, Conditioning
By Gregory Ross
I live in Oakland. California. The local VA clinics [medical and mental health] are on different streets, but both less than a block from the Greyhound Bus Terminal. I don't know about where you live, but here that means a "dangerous" neighborhood. Conditioning: Hyper-Vigilance.
Recently, I left home early for the VA drop-in/urgent care clinic to seek treatment for a pernicious, painful sinus infection. Antibiotics were prescribed. The medications would not be ready for at least an hour, maybe more. I decided to walk a few blocks to a "nice" part of Uptown Oakland for lunch. As I walk, I pass a newspaper box and glance at the headlines: "IRAQ VET SNAPS, KILLS GIRL, 11". I keep walking. Conditioning: Avoidance.
At home I read the article. A 27-year-old Iraq Vet killed his sister and himself, and possibly his mother. Her body has not been found. Page one news, at least here. You probably have your own disturbing local veteran related news. As I read, I cry. Conditioning: Human.
The next day headline: "DEATH, FEARS TRAILED VETERAN." The article details how, since he came back from his latest tour in Iraq, he had changed: sleeping with a rifle; always carrying a handgun; threatening family and neighbors; threatening homicide, threatening suicide; exclaiming he could not forget the smell of death. Conditioning: Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thoughts and Memories run through my mind. My experiences were minor compared to direct combat veterans. The one death I witnessed; of a young girl, still drives me to seek treatment. One "stronger" veteran, called me a wimp. A civilian therapist opined that my problem was that I had a conscience. I knew what he meant but??WTF?? Most Vets flinch when I tell the story. When in the VA PTSD/Alcohol and Drug residential program there was a weekly meeting called "The Vietnam Group." You had to petition to be part of this group. My counselor thought it would be good for me. I was doubtful. I did not think I would be accepted. I petitioned. The response was heading towards a resounding NO, until a Marine; two combat tours; respected by the group, said, "S**t is S**t, a little or a lot, makes no difference." I was in. Conditioning: Survive and Heal.
Memory: While in the VA program, I witnessed the following: [these are not real names] Kennedy, a combat Infantryman, while playing pool with Jones in the rec room, flashes back and loses control. Kennedy breaks the pool cue to use as a weapon and goes for Jones. Smith, thinking quickly, yells out in his best Drill Sergeant Voice; deep, powerful, loud, controlling, "Kennedy! Tent Hut!" Kennedy snaps to attention. Smith orders him to drop the pool cue. He does as ordered then wakes to reality. Cognizance brings a laugh. Smith was a R.E.M.F. Yeoman in Da Nang. Conditioning: Draw your own conclusions.
Memory: Recently, I angrily confronted my brother-in-law, a Draftee Army Veteran, who never left the States; for again telling a story about a C4 training wherein he blew up a tree. Decades ago he drove my sister to tears declaring he had been cheated out of a significant "Male Rite Of Passage Experience: Combat." He announced he was going to answer ads in Soldier of Fortune magazine under the heading "Mercenaries." A few days later, he decided he could live without that particular male bonding experience. Stress the word live. Conditioning: Male Macho Acculturation.
Thoughts: The powers-that-be train humans to become combat ready, kill upon command, Biocomputers. The powers-that-be take no responsibility when these Biocomputers break down under the dehumanizing Conditioning. The powers-that-be ignore in depth de-programming of combat Biocomputers back to their original human state as soon as possible, if even possible. The powers-that-be do not take responsibility and therefore offer no immediate help for the impact of war: Agent Orange poisoning, Depleted Uranium poisoning, Brain Trauma Injury, PTSD. The powers-that-be take no responsibility for helping Vets with the suicides, jailing, homicides, homelessness, alcohol and drug problems. The death toll due to suicides for Vets is two or three times that of civilians. Civilians do not die of Agent Orange or Depleted Uranium poisoning. It is cost-effective for the powers-that-be to just wait. Compared to treatment, a white cemetery cross and an American flag are cheap and oddly enough, still somehow, good PR.
Thought: This is not to show disrespect for those that have died or for those that are presently serving. The only disrespect intended is for the powers-that-be.
Thought: This is not to malign the VA. I think they do a great job with the limited monies the powers-that-be trickle down to them.
Thought: The powers-that-be are the Department of Defense, defense contractors and other powerful corporations making billions of dollars off of war. But you already knew that; I just wanted to say it out loud.
Gregory Ross was in the Navy, the Gun Line off coast of Vietnam with the 7th Fleet [1968-69]. Graduate of a VA drug, alcohol and PTSD program ; Acupuncturist, Detox specialty [since 1989], laid off , published in "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace." Feedback: email@example.com