Home » Uncategorized » The Little Mermaid. Sorry, The Big Tough Marine Mermaid

The Little Mermaid. Sorry, The Big Tough Marine Mermaid

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This last weekend I left Jack and Chesty home and drove to St. Louis with another writer, my good friend, Ruth.  I spoke at a great group called Saturday Writers, who just as an aside have a core collection of writers with a hands-on familiarity with combat.  If you’re a vet and looking for a writing group in the St. Louis area, this organization is well worth checking out. 

So, while I played all weekend, Jack stayed home and cleaned house for the arrival of our good friends from California who will be visiting for a week.  I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts that each time I leave the house, Jack assumes I’m never coming back.  Oh, I don’t mean he THINKS I’ll not return.  But in his gut, he doesn’t expect to see me again.  Ever.  Combat can do that to a person.  Teach them to never,  not ever, rely on the return of anyone.  The absence of expectation is valuable in war.  It’s less so in civilian life.

And thinking about that lesson, it occurred to me that while I refer to Jack and other warriors with PTSD as wounded, they are not.  They are like fish out of water, struggling to figure out how to suck oxygen from air when they’ve just invested years learning, and learning damn quick, to develop gills.  If you throw them back in the waters of war, they’ll swim off good as new. 

They’ve been taught lessons that allow them to survive in an environment that no longer exists for them.  They’re hyper vigilant, obsessive about control, prickly with authority figures who resemble the REMFs that got buddies killed, nervous in a crowd, and extremely protective of those in their care.  All these traits kept them alive in war, made them good warriors.  Now, they’re civilians and these imprinted lessons are less useful, sometimes downright detrimental.

In a way, and I just KNOW this analogy is going to THRILL my Marine husband, they’re like The Little Mermaid in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, dragging themselves out of their true environment and limping along on bloody feet in order to be with those they love. 

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5 thoughts on “The Little Mermaid. Sorry, The Big Tough Marine Mermaid

  1. At least cleaning the house kept him busy and having friends visit will be a nice distraction. Does Jack ever go into himself when you have company? My ex used to. He never wanted people to stay with us and would get a total bad attitude after too much time spent w/ others. He’d be downright rude. It was very embarrassing.

  2. These people who are visiting are a combat vet and his wife. Jack doesn’t have friends who are not combat vets and he would not be good with having someone in the house who did not share that experience. And, yes, when my family or friends visit, he does his best to engage and then emotionally numbs out and pulls inside himself.

  3. What a fitting analogy for combat vets. Thanks for this explanation that may help some people who simply don’t get it. Oh, I know Jack, none of us without the experience can really get it, but we sure as hell do our best to. Love you both.

  4. I just found your blog today I cannot tell you how it resonates with me. I am the daughter of a combat vet that suffers from PTSD. It has been an interesting journey for me because I came into my father’s life long after his combat experiences. I was taught the “rules of dealing with Daddy,” by my mother, but never really given any background about those rules. In my teen years I was able to get some understanding from my uncle who was also a combat veteran, but much more vocal about his experiences. Now, some 25+ years later I am caring for my father in his elder years and his PTSD has come back with a vengeance with the onset of dementia. It is nearly impossible for me to leave me home because it upsets and agitates him so much. The flashbacks and nightmares are worst than ever, and I can see him trying to wall himself off again. It breaks my heart everyday. I see on the news everyday a new person calling for a new conflict some part of the world and I think about my Dad, myself, my brothers and sisters, the life we never had a chance to get because it went AWOL when he was drafted into some else’s ideals. I think about how he is still gripped on some else’s ideals even though it has been more than 50 years since he has seen a battle field. I also think about all the little boys and girls who are just like me, who are going to face the emotionless days and nights so cut off from one of the people that they love the most and how that hurt will continue to radiate out into the world. PTSD does not just effect the soldier. With women now allowed in combat I think of the effects it is going to further have on those children and our society as whole. I know no one is thinking of these things in the cries for war. What is going to happen to those children who have had both parents deployed and effected or rather infected by some else’s ideals. I thank you for sharing.

    • Oh Sarah, I wish so much you were close enough to me to give you a hug. A long hug. I’m not sure if you know this but Jack also now has mild dementia which has, as you know from living with it everyday, is making his PTSD worse. Much worse.
      Is your dad receiving counseling from the VA or from a Vet Center? Do you have respite care so you can get out? If you do not, the VA MUST pay for this. Go to the nearest VA and ask to speak with a patient advocate and a social worker. Do not paint a happy picture when you talk to these folks, tell them how difficult this is for you. If your dad is has a rating for PTSD then your job is going to be much easier, if he does not, you may want to begin this long and arduous process.
      I thank you so much for commenting here. It helps to know we’re not alone.

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