The Soldiers Speak is part of a brochure for the worthy organization Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, Inc. that sends gift packages of necessities and letters to U.S. soldier worldwide. Here is a quote from one of their recipients after receiving a package.
“I don’t know what to say. I am almost speechless. You almost got a tear out of my eye, but I sucked it back in. I can’t let my men see that. What would my men think?”
Sergeant Mathew Newman, Iraq
Exactly Sergeant, what would they think? You can’t read this and not feel it in the depths of your soul. We all know the saying “big boys don’t cry,” and soldiers, well, it’s simply unspeakable. But what would they think? What would happen if they did?
Perhaps, that it was OK to cry, or simply to express their feelings about the horrors of war, their fears, their confusion, and why were they really in harms way and not with their families? Soldiers are supposed to be “Terminators,” without feeling and immediately obey orders, like any good machine. I wish someone would tell my computer that.
The Sergeant’s words express the patriarchal role model as demonstrated in real life. A soldier in the middle of a fire-fight is not going to say, “Stop the shooting, ‘time-out,’ I need to go and have a good cry,” but this is exactly what is feared. But what would happen if feelings were not seen as the inner enemy? What could happen is that when the soldiers returned to base, they could discuss with each other what they felt. Instead of a debriefing of “just the facts,” there could and should be a debriefing about feelings. It might go like this: “I shot this insurgent/enemy, he was wearing a bomb, and/or was shooting at us. I saw his life spill out from him. He couldn’t have been more then maybe thirteen. I know I did the right thing and I kept my fellow soldiers and myself out of harms way, but I feel sad that I had to take his life. He was too young to understand what he was doing. He was just some poor kid that was brainwashed by some extremist Mullah. He was just a boy. At the same time I think I am wrong for feeling this way, after all, I did the right thing.”
His fellow soldiers could support him by understanding and empathizing how he felt conflicted by the horrors of war. More importantly, his feeling would have been witnessed, validated. Validated doesn’t mean his feelings are right and his actions wrong, it means both are valid. This is important in the resolution of conflict. He has a right to feel and also the right to make rational choices that may conflict with one another. The issue arises when one of these is made wrong. All humans must learn to balance all aspects of themselves, not by denying any aspect, but through conscious choice.
How would this help? The soldier and his fellow squad members would release and leave behind the charges from their grief and fear, by expressing them, instead of carrying them around inside in an ever darkening holding cell (the shadow side). Then, the charge they carry would be released, freeing the soldiers to make clearer choices and find resolution more easily.
All repressed emotions require constant energy to maintain in our inner prisons. These darkening energies twist human beings on the inside, limiting their abilities to make decisions, to intuit, sense conditions, and to just plain be a fully functional human being and soldiers. The lessening of vitality and sanity is always the result of repression.
Worse still, if the soldiers survive to return home, they are thrown back into society with their pressure cookers of horrors, pain, and fears, all being repressed. Obviously, this can have disastrous consequences. But for those that appear to be handling it, it can affect them and their families, communities and country for the rest of their lives. Look at the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers from Vietnam that surfaced years later, and that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Most I believe suffer in silence, often drunken silence.
In conclusion, it is my heartfelt belief that our soldiers MUST express their feelings, and yes, even be allowed to cry if they choose to. Permission for this be given and supported wholeheartedly by all.
Thank you Sergeant and all soldiers for you courage in defending our country.