Telling Our Stories

The veteran in the video I link to at the bottom is quoted: “You served combat. Or not. You have a story. Tell it.”

Children are asked to sign a life-sized poster board thanking our veterans for serving our country. A bunch of us are conflicted when those brown-skinned children’s grandmothers’ houses in Syria are being bombed.

The two of us think we shouldn’t have started the failed endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet joining the military is like taking a vow to become a priest: you might not be under oath yet it’s what you signed up for: serving our country.

We can argue that having blind allegiance regardless of the outcome (think: desecrating a Doctors Without Borders hospital) doesn’t solve anything. We can argue that the billions spent on these wars should’ve been spent on mental healthcare instead. We can argue that we could’ve taken the money spent on war and used it to fund the college education of kids who live in poverty.

Hold those thoughts.

I want to talk about veterans of all stripes now: those who pledged undying (and sometimes dying) loyalty to serve in our military. Those who’ve been through psychic wars. Soldiers fighting mental illness. Those of us battling discrimination because of our mental illness or because of our other perceived “difference.”

It might not be OK to lump all veterans together with our armed forces. Yet my point is that Joe Bruni is right: “You served combat. Or not. You have a story. Tell it.”

I dream a world where there’s no war of any kind. Where American soldiers are not sent into dubious battles programmed to kill. Where people with schizophrenia don’t have to do battle every day with their illness because they’ve gotten effective treatment as soon as they need it.

Where fighting for our rights as human beings is not necessary.

The message is: “Land of the Free Because of the Brave.”

In this regard: I raise a pint to every brave soul who has fought in a U.S. war. I raise a pint to every person who’s fighting some kind of battle in their lives.

We must never forget the lives of anyone who fights. Whether a person is fighting for our country or fighting for their rights or fighting for wellness inside of illness: we must never forget them and never abandon them.

Here’s the Tribute to Joe video on CNN:

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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