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What We Owe Our Veterans and Military Men & Women

Hoboken is largely underwater and lower Manhattan is dark as I write this in my also dark, cold, unelectrified house. I am developing a new appreciation for my fireplace, which is giving me warmth, a kind of comfort and hot coffee as the power outage stretches into day 4 and counting. My neighbor John who I've known since he was young kid, brings me firewood because I did not stock up. Here on Long Island, there are people dealing with much worse and I feel blessed just to have my home and family alive and safe, my house intact. People in Staten Island and elsewhere are devastated. And while most of us are riding this out taking care of ourselves, the National Guard is out there taking care of everybody they can reach. The Guard is rescuing the hard-to-rescue and bringing supplies to the isolated. This is the U.S. military, the men and women who move when the rest of us cannot and always do it in the spirit of service.
"There is no one that is not connected to the military," states author, playwright, veteran and Licensed Mental Health Counselor Larry Winters, an organizer of the Veterans Day Vigil in Foley Square Park in New York City, "Fifty some cents of every dollar is going into the Wars we have started. Even though the candidates never mention this we all pay dearly for these wars. There is no one in society that is not affected by the symptoms soldiers suffer. The traumatic brain injuries that returning soldiers are dealing with will cost taxpayers in the trillions of dollars over the life time of these men and women veterans."
With Veteran's Day a little more than a week away, now is a great reflect on our connection to the military through the effect of their sacrifice on our day to day existence, and through the ways we benefit through their contribution. We can take some action to explore these connections through participation in a number of events scheduled in New York City, which will hopefully have made progress toward being back on its feet by then.
This election year there is much talk of showing "economic patriotism" - keeping jobs here in America, e.g., or paying our fair share in taxes. As a therapist with enough years on this planet to have lived through the draft during Viet Nam and seen the suicides and alarming rates of homelessness of soldiers coming back from that war, I believe that we have an obligation to engage in a kind of "therapeutic patriotism" for our soldiers today. Get the training we need to be able to understand and engage with the military world which is an essential aspect of effective treatment. Offer our services to programs that focus on addressing the needs of returning soldiers and their families. Get involved in prevention efforts. We owe it to these people We owe it to our country.

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP

Nicholas Wolff currently treats veterans of U.S. wars from WWII to Iraq/Afghanistan in his private practice and is on several panels designed to reach out to military families.


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