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PTSD and Mental Health: How America’s Wars Came Home With the Troops

 After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and 16 wounded.  When he did so, he also pulled America’s fading wars out of the closet.  This time, a Fort Hood mass killing, the second in four and a half years, was committed by a man who was neither a religious nor a political “extremist.”  He seems to have been merely one of America’s injured and troubled veterans who now number in the hundreds of thousands.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ken Sutter
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                                            No More Parades


             Circa 1945. The great World War had just ended, the guys were coming home at last. Our country gave them a hero’s welcome. Had parades and ceremonies to honor these great individuals that fought so valiantly for our freedoms. Gave them medals to show our appreciation and gratitude for their selfless deeds and actions of true heroism. Truly great men and women that did, indeed, do a wonderful job for our country.

             The war was over, we won. The guys who fought that war are heroes. They knew it, the public knew it, the whole world knew it. A great job done by great men, well deserving of the medals, parades and celebrations honoring them.

             The men who fought that war got the job done, and they got the job done right. Total and complete victory. The parades, celebrations, and medals will confirm that within them; will solidify the war as something well done and worthy of their efforts. Will allow them to put into practice all those things they were fighting for.

             For sure they learned a lot about themselves fighting the war. They understood things that were once foreign to them - that were once mysteries to them. Now they knew them as truths, legitimate attitudes and perceptions about life. How to live it, and more importantly, why to live it a certain way - a very specific way. They understood what was truly important and what wasn't so important. And it was all confirmed as legitimate knowledge by the parades and hero’s welcome they received when they arrived home. Thereby setting it in stone in their minds and hearts. Now they were free to live their lives with that knowledge and raise their families with that knowledge and try their best to insert that knowledge into society, and sure enough they proceeded to do so.

             The consequences of that was the 50’s. The greatest decade of the last century. Life was good - real good. These veterans of the great war, who were raised in the depression, who fought their hearts out in the war, were now free to build a society built on the principles they learned while going through all that hardship. It worked. The 50’s were GREAT.       

             So, what did these guys learn in the war? What was the knowledge that made them so valuable? What was it that made them so good that they could build an entire decade, and more, with all the good things the 50’s were filled with? It comes down to a total of 18 years that were really good. From 1945 to 1963. What was it that the war taught these guys that made them so steadfast to a certain way of doing things, of treating people, of raising their families. What was it?

             It all changed in 1963 with the Kennedy assassination. It put a complete halt to what these veterans were doing. Their dream was shattered. And the kids of these veterans saw their world shattered too. All their dreams and aspirations gone with the Kennedy assassination. It wasn’t right – they knew it wasn’t right and they rebelled thereof. But it was too late. 


             Circa 1965 to 1975, the Vietnam Conflict - A police action - to us that were in it - a war. I believed in freedom. I believed in our Constitution, I could plainly see that we lived in the best country in the world. So when I got drafted and ultimately sent to Vietnam I didn’t mind fighting for my country. I thought it was the right thing to do. It was an honor to defend freedom and our Constitution that gave us the vaunted American way.

             Of course, once I got over there it didn’t take long to see that there was something seriously wrong with the way we were being allowed to fight the war. Within three months I knew it was a joke. But I still had 9 months of duty to spend over there so it was going to be tough.

             I started acquiring the “gifts” of war in Cambodia. Third day in - all Hell broke lose. Haven’t been the same since. Acquired more of the “gifts” in the Highlands outside of An Khe. Then again down north of Saigon with the 1/7th Air Cav.  More “gifts”.

             For sure, the war part of the war was not good and would lead to PTSD a few years down the road. But there were other things that happened to us that nobody said anything about. I wrote a little book titled “They’re Awake” which details the heightened awareness factors that combat gives to you. Heightened awareness is great in the jungle fighting a war, but not much good in society when you get home, which led to an abundance of problems. At least for us Vietnam guys. The rest of the “gifts” of war we discovered within ourselves when we got home.

             What are these “gifts”? What does being in combat teach you? Combat is combat, it doesn’t matter what war you were in. WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Gulf war, Iraq, Pakistan, It just doesn’t matter. The guys that fight these wars, that actually do the combat, develop some very specific traits.

             What “life lessons” do you learn in combat?  What does going to war teach you? What are the conclusions that are brought home very clearly to the participants of the firefights, ambushes, pulling guard duty and the sheer brutality of it all? And, is it even possible to learn lessons from all that ugliness?

             It’s not a conscious thing. It’s not sitting down in a classroom and being told “now this is your lesson for today”. No, the things you learn in war happen on a subconscious level. You are changed at a deeper level. You’re changed at the heart level. Important stuff, not superficial, politically correct, ego, stuff.

             Well, of course, I wouldn’t be writing this unless I had some answers to those questions - unless I knew personally about all this. When I returned from the war I didn’t know any of this. Well, at least, I didn’t know I knew. It took years to figure it out. I thought I would just get back to the world and go back to living my life. I didn’t really think about what could have been different, or that anything was different. I was just glad to have made it back. Now let’s carry on.     It didn’t work.  Why?


             Let me tell you about Earl. Earl was my girlfriend’s father when I was a 17-year- old kid. Earl changed my life and I didn’t even know it at the time. Earl didn’t sit me down and lecture to me. He didn’t say: “Now Ken, this is important”. Earl participated in life from the heart. There was no cerebral stuff with Earl. He lived life to its fullest and he wanted to make sure those around him lived life to it’s fullest. Seems like he was always trying to make us have some fun. Always trying to get us to be active. He was a participant in his children’s lives too, and even his kids friends lives. I had never seen this before.

             My childhood was great but I had never seen this interaction between parents and kids before. Oh, we had a little bit of it, but not like Earl and his family. There was something different and very good about what I was seeing. But honestly, I didn’t understand, and had no idea what was going on. But there was a definite “feel” about all this that touched my very soul.

             Earl was a WW II veteran. He told us some of the war stories, which I thought were interesting, but didn’t pay much heed to. He was a kind, generous, hard working, rugged, tough, individual. Work hard but don’t forget to smell the roses along the way - have some fun. It seemed like Earl knew something the rest of us didn’t have a clue about. Oh, his family knew, they were used to it, they thought it was “normal”. But we outsiders didn’t have a clue.  Now I know.

             Years later it came to me. Earl had been to war. Well, so had I. So now I knew what war had taught Earl and why he was such a positive influence in my life, because it taught me the same things. That life was precious, life was short and humans are fragile. That peace is the answer not war, love not hate. I now knew that the main purpose of life was to work hard and have some fun along the way. Even make your work fun. To be lenient and forgiving of others. To be thankful for each and every day. I had seen firsthand the futility of war. The complete senselessness of it. I now could place priorities correctly. I now knew that life and love were important and complaining and criticism doesn’t count. I also knew I had physical and mental abilities far beyond what I thought I had. The only problem was I knew all this on a subconscious level. It wasn’t things you sat down and thought about and then made a conscious decision; “Oh, I guess I’ll be that way”. No, this all happened deep within us. The same way it happened to Earl deep within him. Same lessons - different war.

             But, it didn’t work for me. It worked fine for Earl. What was the difference between Earl and I? We both had the same knowledge; we both went through the same war experiences. Why did it work for him and not for me?


             No more parades. My war was Vietnam, his was WW II. At the end of WW II there were parades and medals and a huge “welcome back”. There was celebration everywhere. People were genuinely glad to see the boys. They accepted them, embraced them, congratulated them. Gave them the hero’s welcome they deserved. The society was eager to have them back and for the guys to take their rightful place in that society. They were completely accepted by society when they returned. Completely.

             Is that important? You bet.  Look what they did with it. They too had learned the lessons of war on a subconscious level. It was in their hearts. Peace not war, love not hate, patience not intolerance, life is short so have fun living it, things of the heart are important, material possessions pass, be honest, work hard, smell the roses all along the way. Be kind, generous, and loving but also stand up for yourself and fight injustice. Valuable lessons of life brought home very clearly and without doubt by the participation in a war. Their priorities were correct and they proceeded to build the 50’s with that. The greatest decade of the entire century. And if you look back at WW I they did the same thing in the 20’s. The veterans did that. They had that much influence on society. As they should.

             Of course, after WW I the good times ended with the crash of the stock market in 29. After WW II the good times ended with the Kennedy assassination. But the veterans had it going there for a while. They built a society both times on sound principles and values that worked. 


             That all ended with Vietnam. For sure we learned the same things Earl learned. Anyone who participates in war learns those things. Those who don’t participate don’t learn it. The creators of the wars don’t learn the lessons that the participants of the war learn. At wars end the participants are elevated much higher than the generals and officers that just directed the war, or the politicians that started the war in the first place.

             So, apparently “they” had to figure out a way to continue having war and totally negate the veterans’ positive influence on society with the values he learned while fighting the war. Legitimate values and principles that society needs and thrives with. How do you do that?

             It’s easy - No more parades. Matter of fact, look what “they” have done to the veteran since Vietnam. Are there any more parades or heroes welcome when they get back? No, just the opposite. The veterans are rejected by society for the most part. The general state of mind being “its OK to know them, just don’t be near them when they go off”. And if you really want to get your heart broken go down to the local VA hospital and see how these war hero’s are treated.

             Now the war hero comes back to be a problem for that society instead of the man who has the answers. He should be the one leading society like after WW I and WW II but he’s not. Why?

             No more parades. The values and principles he learned in war are never verified. Are never accepted as legitimate. There’s no parades, no celebration, no patting the vet on the back saying “good job, thanks for fighting for our freedom”. And that started with the Vietnam guys.

             And it’s not like these lesson and values we picked up in war are so uncommon or hard to find. They aren’t magical, mystical lessons and great insights we got that other people never acquire. No, everybody eventually learns these things. Being in combat brings them home early in life that’s all. I’ve often said, “I went over there 21 years old - I came back 75 years old”. Of course not literally but attitude wise. What we learned in combat in one short year usually takes a lifetime to learn without the combat.  


             When I first arrived home I didn’t think much about it. I was just glad to survive the ordeal. But it didn’t take long for the changes in me to start manifesting. I found myself really appreciating life and not complaining about anything. Not even the dirty diapers.

             I found myself wanting to have fun no matter what I was doing, I always tried to make it fun. The most mundane job I was working I could always find a way to make interesting and fun. I was very tolerant of others, even the people that sent me to war. Always figuring “yeah, they’ll understand someday”. And I couldn’t stop the love from flowing, again figuring “they’ll understand someday”. I worked hard and played hard, Life was wonderful, well worth living, and I participated. That’s what I sensed in Earl at 17 years old.

             But after a while I started to see that most of the “friends” I had before the war pretty much stayed clear of me after the war. I wondered about that. How’d that happen?  And I saw a part of me that wasn’t there before the war. A very quick but short-lived temper. I learned much later that came from the chemicals and parasites I picked up in the jungle. Gone now. But also a part of the non-acceptance when I got home.

             There was no doubt that I had changed, but the way I saw it, they were good changes. I learned things in war that takes years to learn without war. But I was rejected at home when returning from the war. The WW II guys weren’t. And that makes a HUGE difference in life.

             Probably the biggest single “thing” I experienced was nobody wanted to talk to us. No one wanted to hear about what we had been through. Not that we could have told them what it was really all about anyway, but no one would listen to us about whatever we wanted to talk about on any subject. Well, I know what it means when you don’t talk to somebody. We all do it. It means you don’t like them and are indeed rejecting them. It’s natural to not talk to people you don’t like. But these were my friends, even family, what happened?  

             Very slippery, very sly…..The media told them we were dangerous. They told society that we were flawed and you better be careful around these guys. They put movies out about us. The Rambo type movies. “First Blood”, “The Dear Hunter”, “Jacob’s Ladder” etc. “They” were controlling how we were to be treated when we got home. The media told the public not to talk to us, to be careful around us. That we are dangerous, that we might explode.

             “They” couldn’t have us be accepted with the legitimate learning’s of war like the WW II guys were. No, we HAD to be rejected. They couldn’t have all those good things we learned become part of the controlled society they were building. They didn’t want the good times of the 50’s to happen again. They could not have the wisdom of old age that these young guys acquired in combat become a part of society. Matter of fact they had to negate that wisdom by whoever was trying to work it into society. Combat veteran or old folks. They succeeded. Now even the old folks are shuffled off to the nursing home to get them out of the way.

             So… No more parades. Complete denial and rejection of the combat veteran. It didn’t matter that, individually, we thought we were fighting for the same things the WW II guys were. They made the public think we were baby killers and that we really didn’t love our country. And that somehow we were to be feared instead of accepted. 

             Well, that takes care of that problem. Now they can start wars and keep them going without ever being threatened by the legitimate learning’s the people that fight the wars get. Again, legitimate learning’s that everyone sooner or later gets but we just got early in life.

             Plus, if you’re defense of something isn’t recognized as such you eventually think that it’s somehow wrong to defend anything - that it’s wrong to stand up for even yourself. That it’s wrong to fight for any cause.

             We were good in Vietnam - Real good. The guys in WW II were good - Real good. That’s what saved us. The combat veteran develops skills and vision early in life that the average person doesn’t get until he’s in his 50’s, 60’s and beyond. Those skills and visions should be allowed to become a living part of society after the combat is over. The same way the wisdom of the elderly should be sought after and applied in society. But if that were allowed to happen it wouldn’t take long before there wouldn’t be any more wars. “They” can’t have that.

             So, it turns out that it’s all by design. The good things that life teaches you are not being allowed to enter society. To be in combat was difficult and very hard to do (and live with afterwards). But it gave you some very valuable lessons in life that should have been allowed to become part of society. WW II was the last time that happened and you can bet your bottom dollar it will never happen again.

             There’s no more parades for us combat veterans, and the old folks are drugged and shuffled off into nursing homes. We both acquired the same knowledge. Valuable knowledge that should be the living part of any society. Obviously that will NOT be allowed to happen anymore. 

             Is it a conspiracy? Well, of course it is. Is it the mythical New World Order at work? Of course it is. But I’m not going to get into all that here. I call “them” the Status Quo. Which I cover in my book “The Status Quo”.  

             But, it makes you think. Maybe by now our benevolent government DOES have all the answers. Maybe they don’t need the wisdom of the elderly or the combat veteran anymore. Maybe all their “experts” know exactly how to handle all the situations that come up in life. Maybe they can teach us how to live in peace, enjoy abundant health, wealth, and how to find that elusive happiness we all seek.

             What do you think?….That’s what I thought….No More Parades


Dr. K. R. Sutter II


Vietnam Veteran 

Copyright: 2006



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