STOLEN VALOR

Short people wear elevator shoes. Some women pad their bras. Guys dye their hair and wear rugs. All wishing to be perceived as something they are not. Today’s secondary SCOTUS ruling on “Stolen Valor” makes legal, if not emotional sense. No heroic deed is diminished by the inadequacy of a warrior wannabe any more than scholars are diminished by a dropout exec looking to pad his educational bio. After 30 years of advocacy and interaction with combat veterans, I’ve noticed a handful of such instances, like a soldier claiming to have been captured by the VC and later escaping. In every case, my reaction was identical: I felt very embarrassed for them. Not outrage, just sadness that something inside them remained broken. I doubt their lies led to any genuine healing…but perhaps the unraveling started a journey long overdue.

AFTERACTION REPORT

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I entered the QTC office, several blocks from my home, checked in and sat to wait.  There were several other clusters of veterans and their families or translators.  A sign on the wall announced “QTC Examinations for America’s Heroes Proudly Conducting Compensation and Pension Exams for the Dept of Veterans Affairs.”  On a magazine rack, a single copy of Time, its red cover entitled, “HOW TO DIE.”  Hmmm, might want to rethink that presentation…

After maybe 10 minutes, I was called into an inner office and met my evaluator, a young psychologist probably born a few years after I came home.  He seated me, explained our purpose and apologized for having to type as we spoke.  I was relieved…since we weren’t going to record it, I did want a roger copy of our interaction.

He had no access to the prior submissions from my two therapists.  He was grateful that I had brought along my DD214 (military discharge records, delineating decorations, assignments, dates of service.)  After looking thru it, he asked me to describe my background prior to my service, which I did.  I then moved to specifics – my past as an advisor, commander, soldier, patient.  I stayed on topic, fought thru my emotions…

(You know, as an actor, we are at times required to access grief.  That’s never been an issue for me.  Sometimes actors believe crying is acting.  Our job is really to move the audience to tears.  When you are emotionally full and you refuse to surrender to it; when you fight thru it, gasping for breath, struggling to CONTROL that emotion, it is very compelling, very persuasive.  Note to my thespian friends:)

Long story short, I have (as we’ve KNOWN for many years:) PTSD and depression.  His report will affirm that reality.  So I am finally in the VA database for PTSD.  Another statistic, another brick in the wall.  No caps for that wall:)  I was greatly encouraged to be evaluated by so decent and compassionate a reviewer; I hope he is representative of the cadre tasked with this critical mission.  Yet as I wiped my tears, I could only think of some 23 year old, back from several deployments, without my meds or therapy or years of insight, making his way thru this obstacle course.  God bless and keep them all.  May each find care and clarity and emotional wellbeing.

8 June 2012