According to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency there are still 82,468 military members listed as missing in action from as far back as WWII through current day. Think about that a minute. That’s a lot of families that don’t know what happened to a loved one and are still wondering if they are alive or dead. It’s the not knowing that can eat at your soul.
I recently met a Dentist that worked at our local VA hospital for 38 years. Some of his patients were former POW’s that shared their experiences with him. Dr. Patrick J. Bastow (also a veteran) has, with their permission, written a book called “My Heroes and Their Stories of Survival”. After reading the book, the sentence that hasn’t left my mind is one of the men admitting he only had one shower in seven months and no change of clothes in all that time. In our comfortable homes we cringe if we can’t shower daily and we change clothes multiple times. Can you imagine the smells, discomfort and cause for depression to be incarcerated against your will. I think it’s one of those things you can’t understand if it doesn’t happen to you.
In the veteran’s writing group I belong to we write about military experiences. In my case, it’s about being a dependent of an Air Force member. For the guys and gals that served, it’s obvious when they arrived home after their enlistment, the war they fought in came with them. We are honored to have two WWII vets as active members of the group. When they talk of fighting in Europe it’s like they just did it yesterday. The same is true of the Viet Nam and Afghanistan vets. Adrenaline packed experiences rarely recede to the nether regions of the mind, they stay front and center causing nightmares, anxiety, and survival guilt. In my opinion this is like being a prisoner of war, more accurately, being a prisoner of the memories of war. No wonder a number of our homeless are veterans.
I enjoyed many aspects of being an Air Force wife: the different places we lived, meeting new people, having good health care; but I also learned a nomadic life doesn’t lead to long-term friendships or good roots for your children to hold on to. When I meet with my writing group once a month it’s like being with family. We are connected automatically because we know the sacrifice that is made by those that fight for the Red White and Blue. We also personally know a few people who are still MIA and some that are POW’s of their memories. We can attest to the fact, freedom isn’t free.