Talk to a veteran about their service today.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
Today is the first Veterans Day after our country’s controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan. Given that, it is likely to have special meaning for veterans, their families, our Afghan partners, and the public. It is also a part of the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to service members whose remains have not been identified. Especially with combat exposure in recent wars, our military have been at higher risk of death, posttraumatic stress disorder, survivor guilt, moral injury, and suicide.
For self-disclosure and therapeutic ventilation, I am a veteran too. I served 2 very rewarding years as a psychiatrist at an Army base in Anniston, Alabama after finishing my residency training back in 1975-1977. Even so, I still have some ambivalence and guilt that I did not do more. After all, I had the chance to avoid being drafted into service in Vietnam after medical school. During medical school, I got married and we had our first child. Faced with an anguishing moral choice, I was leaning to try to get a conscientious objector status, which my lawyer father thought I could obtain. However, I was not against all wars, so I applied to the Berry Plan right before the midnight deadline. I was accepted and thereby did not have to serve until I finished training. Like today, I do become tearful at any event celebrating the armed forces, yet am still relieved that my son did not have to serve.
Fortunately, it seems like the public showed some increased concern and interest as Veterans Day approached this year. To honor them, most vets have long said not to thank them, but to engage them in discussing their service, similar to what I just took the liberty to do about myself. That cannot help but increase empathy. Take the opportunity to not only do so today, but any day.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.