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April 8
1874 - Work completed at Lyon's Station (now Eternal Valley) on first version of Pioneer Oil Refinery [story]
Pioneer Oil Refinery


They are trained to sacrifice themselves for us on the home front. They do it with patriotism and pride in our country and way of life. They do it for their families and for all American families. Yet many civilians treat them like the enemy, even though they, the civilians, do not know why.

Spouses know that the person that left to protect our country was their beloved family member. They spend hours praying their loved one will return to reunite with them. When they do, there is great joy and celebration. This can last several weeks or months, until the spouse realizes the person who came home was not the same person who left. They don’t understand why they can no longer communicate with their spouse. They don’t understand the things that are happening every day.

I am going to attempt to give you a little peek into the life of our PTSD veterans.

In the military, training is all-important. The chain of command is all-important. Why? It is the safest way to go into battle. So, you are now a soldier. You will long for home and your loved ones, and then suddenly you are under attack. You switch gears, you are now a team member responsible for each other’s lives. You have to have your buddies’ back, and they have to have yours.

We watch these battles play out in movies and TV shows. We are so hardened to these images that we have no real understanding as to how this affects soldiers.

Once home, these soldiers still face the biggest battle of their lives: adjusting to civilian life. First, soldiers don’t complain about their conditions. They try to protect their loved ones from the horror they experienced. They don’t want to talk about what happened. They don’t want to relive what went down. And, they have no control over their reactions to certain stimuli such as a helicopter overhead, vehicle backfires, constantly searching the mountainsides for the enemy. Not being able to sleep, not until they become so exhausted that they will fall asleep – and when they do, it is a very deep sleep. Nightmares. Yes, nightmares. And spouses feel so helpless as to what to do to help their loved one. So, they try to wake them up to reassure them. The result? You may wind up on the floor. Waking up in this manner will cause a reaction.

Can you see what all this is leading to regarding spousal relations? Can you understand why there is such a high suicide and divorce rate among these families?

Tip: If your veteran is having a nightmare, get out of the bed. Get a distance from the bed. They may wake up swinging. Call their name gently; keep calling it until they wake up. From your distance, reassure them everything is OK.

Let me give you a few examples of how living with PTSD is expressed by veterans in daily life.

“I went to a birthday party with my wife and kids. When I started meeting people there, all I could focus on was what kind of shoes is that guy wearing? (Friend or foe, combative or not?) Does he have a gun in his belt?”

This is an example of hyper-vigilance. Soldiers – men and women – are always “at the ready” even in a down-time situation. A lack of sleep brings exhaustion. When you are in a state of exhaustion, any trigger can induce an outburst. Example: a helicopter overhead, a person cuts you off on the freeway. Most veterans prefer to shop very early in the morning or late at night because they are uncomfortable in crowds. Can you image why?

Soldiers want to be with other soldiers, but here is the thing: Even when together, they don’t want to talk about deployment experiences. They just want to hang with their buddies who have their back. It feels safe.

So, if you are a spouse or you know a veteran in need, please refer them to Blue Star Ranch, Serving Our Nation’s Veterans with Equine Assisted Therapy. Visit: BlueStarRanch.org or call Nancy at 661-312-6184.

And if you know a veteran, please honor them with a donation to our program, as we provide our services free and need to pay the bills. Donations can be made online. We write grants and do fund raisers, but we receive no federal funding. We are limited in helping veterans only by our budget. Thank you.

 

Nancy Zhe is executive director of Blue Star Ranch, a 501(c)(3) provider of equine-assisted mental health services in Saugus.

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