Institutionalized trauma – the Military and PTSD

A couple of nights ago I learned that Iraq war veteran Benjamin Barnes had open fired on a Mt. Rainier Park Ranger’s car, grabbed some munitions, and headed up into the mountain. There was a lock-down in The Park and officials were scouring the mountain for him.

When I say, “The Park” I mean 378 square miles, 26 major glaciers, snow fields, and an altitude of 5,400 feet at Paradise Lodge, where his trek began. Even a survivalist, without adequate coverage, wouldn’t make it long out there.  People die on the mountain every year. What was he thinking?

I suppose he wasn’t. He was ill. He was a young Iraq war veteran suffering from PTSD. He had already shot 4 people in Seattle. If only he had known that Margaret Anderson, the 24-year-old Ranger he killed, had a child nearly his own daughter’s age. Would that have intercepted him at all?

As I watched the news updates, knowing that he was at large, I couldn’t help but think about the recent move to legalize weapons in national park (please someone tell me why this is important), the NRA, the horrid things that soldiers must face, and the lack of support we give them when they return all messed up.

I heard a great presentation by a West Point graduate a couple of years ago who argued that the most difficult job of military officials is to train people to kill. It is against our basic emotional, social and spiritual nature. I am no psychologist, and not intentionally channeling my two teenage girls, but umm… like .. DUH!

Violence traumatizes us. War traumatizes us. Killing anyone, even if we are convinced it is our job to do so, traumatizes us. Our traumas must be dealt with. And when we institutionalize trauma, as we do in the military, we had better be ready to help on the other end.

Seriously. What are we going to do about this? I hear we are sending a large delegation of military to Israel right now. To do what? Beef up our resolve against Iran? So we can send some more of our kids to war and come back all (you fill in the adjective)-up? We are going to end up with more and more Benjamin Barns’s if something significant doesn’t shift in our willingness to take responsibility for those who give up their innocence in service of our country.

(with sincerest prayers for healing to the families of Margaret Anderson and Benjamin Barnes)

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One Response to Institutionalized trauma – the Military and PTSD

  1. So sad. I have never understood why it is so important to make guns so easy to get and use.

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