A Letter to University Students in Need of a “Safe” Space from a Veteran

Dear University Students in Need of a “Safe” Space,

Today is Veteran’s Day. On this particular Veteran’s Day, university students and their professors across the nation are crying that they are traumatized by the results of Tuesday’s election claiming they need “safe” spaces to deal with the horror of Donald Trump’s election (There are dictionaries on campus to help with defining words like horror, tragedy, trauma, pain, and suffering in case they are needed.) Students are not attending classes and their professors are encouraging this infantile behavior by cancelling their classes and “protesting” with them. It is fitting in the face of this adolescent behavior to contemplate what I was doing when I was 18-22 years of age (I served 6 years, but most college students are 18-22).

I enlisted in 1999, during peace-time. I needed to pay for college, and while that was my initial reason for enlisting, that quickly changed as I learned of the real sacrifice of serving in the military. I am thankful that my military service did in fact pay for my Bachelor’s degree and it is now paying for my nearly completed Master’s degree. I am not saddled with $100,000 in debt I can never repay with a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving.

I was a linguist and my position required mainly desk work. That desk work meant that when I was 20 years old I was in charge of complex classified systems at a large government agency. I was doing work graduate students only dream of–I hadn’t even finished college at the time–but I was already fluent in a second language. You are claiming exhaustion and trauma from an election. I worked rotating 12 hour shifts for years without even knowing what day it was while entrusted–along with all of my fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines–with the task of keeping this nation safe.

At 20 years of age the unthinkable happened. A real trauma and tragedy: 9/11. Overnight we went from peace-time to war-time. I found myself standing in front of the burning rubble of the Pentagon with 400 grieving family members. We stood in front of the tomb where 184 people had been murdered. Trauma is not when you don’t get your way. Trauma is a response to actual violence. An election going as elections go in a Republic is not a trauma. It’s the electoral process of this nation.

Three years after 9-11 I found myself trapped in the pain and real trauma of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had actual, not made up, PTSD. My relief work proved deeply painful and I had to pay a great sacrifice; one that so many of my fellow Veterans pay and carry today. You don’t have any idea what the need for a “safe” space is when you’ve never woken up from nightmares in a state of sleep paralysis alone in your bed across the ocean from your family or you had to run out of a movie theater, cower in a corner, and have a panic attack at the entrance because you didn’t expect the 9-11 movie trailer. The same goes for combat Vets when they see combat scenes. Hollywood can occasionally get something right, and they are pretty good at portraying flashbacks. You have no idea what it is like to give so much and carry that kind of tremendous weight your entire life. Being an undergraduate at a school where you are coddled, isn’t trauma. War, terrorism, violence, natural disasters, abuse, cancer are real traumas. Those of us with PTSD in the military, kept doing our jobs while getting treatment. We didn’t get to stop acting like adults in the midst of that suffering and neither do the men and women battling the scars of war today.

You and your friends are safe in your warm dorm rooms whimpering about your losses and how this country is going to fall apart and all of those “racist” voters will destroy this country. It’s much easier to label people than engage in actual intellectual debate based on reality and facts. I didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump, I exercised my free right to go third party, but I accept the election results because that is what we do in a free nation. The way you are acting implies your desire for a dictatorship based on your feelings and relativistic beliefs predicated upon nihilism. I know people of all backgrounds and races who voted for Trump. Just because you want something to be true does not make it true.

While you are playing beer pong and comforting one another in response to that “awful” Donald Trump, I have friends who have committed suicide from the trauma of war. I have friends who have died suddenly from injuries that occurred in war zones or on humanitarian missions. I have three cousins who gave years of their lives to war in the Marine Corps. I have friends who have been shot, blown up, and lost friends in IEDs. I have family still serving in the military.

Today we remember the people who serve or have served this great nation and who understand sacrifice in the face of tremendous pain and suffering. So, it’s time to put your big boy or big girl pants on and accept what has happened. It’s time to be an actual adult. You have no idea what a “safe” space is or what real trauma, tragedy, and suffering is like. I do and so do countless others.

Sincerely,

A U.S. Navy Veteran

Small Success Thursday November 14, 2013

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It is really easy to get to this point on Thursday and wonder if I have any small successes this week.  They are there I just have to find them through my own critic.

First, Monday was Veteran’s Day.  I am a US Navy Veteran and I decided to enjoy the day.  I went out to lunch at Applebee’s, for my free meal, with a friend of mine.  Instead of rushing home to do dishes, we decided to go to the mall.  You would have to know me to realize just how much of a rarity this is for me.  I am not a shopper, in fact there I times I loathe shopping.  That evening I went out to dinner, for another free meal, with a good friend of mine.  We had a great dinner and she embarassed me exceedingly by showing the waiter my picture on my DD-214. I could not find my VA ID, so I took my DD-214 with me instead.  I can’t believe I joined the Navy 14 years ago.

I have mixed emotions about my military service.  I am proud of serving my country, but I am heart-broken about what this country is becoming.  I was a Russian linguist and I am not happy with what my previous employer  is doing to violate everyone’s privacy.  It pains me to have been a part of that power grab, even though my work was “lawful”.  I am thankful that I was able to be a 9-11 relief worker, so it is a mixed bag.  My success was to embrace and celebrate my service.  While it is nice to hear “thank you for your service” most of us Vets don’t know what to say.  We were just doing our jobs.

Second, I have written quite a bit on my blog this week.  It is always a step in the right direction when I write regularly.  I figure I will keep writing and see what happens.  I do need to get back to writing my novel.  The solid idea is there, now to get it fully to the page.  It is a Catholic thriller, I guess would be what you would call it.

Third, I am remembering to be thankful for the life I have been given.  This year has been insane for us.  I have had to call two ambulances for my husband because of his debilitating migraines, I had emergency surgery for a miscarriage and lost our 3rd baby, our daughter was in the hospital for 3 days with a staph infection, a friend nearly died of eclampsia, a good friend from the Navy died suddenly in July, we moved into our new house, and we have been fixing problems in the house. It is one of those years you just want too see end.  Strangely, I have a deeper faith and gratitude for life.  I have never understood the adage that suffering makes us stronger.  It’s like I woke up one day and  it all made sense.  I could see God working in my life. Even though this year has been difficult, I have a greater faith and prayer life.  I am beginning to understand how He is refining me in the furnace.

What about you?  What are your small successes for the week?