This weekend I spent the better part of the day running around the web looking for something interesting to write about. With the continued tensions across the Middle East, the 2016 presidential election which some consider the most important election cycle since the Civil War and let’s not forget the miracle of the millennium, the Chicago Cubs heading to the World Series, content is certainly not in short supply.
That being said, my digital stumbling around the net brought me to one story that I found more than a little disconcerting. Earlier this month, a memo was released for students at the University of Florida stating that the university will have counselors available 7-days a week as well as a 24/7 hotline for those students who may be traumatized by Halloween costumes. This is the reality our youth, the hope of America’s future, has been forged in. I am stunned by the idea that these young men and women are being directed to therapy programs over a scary or offensive costumes.
What has happened to our institutions of higher learning, the halls of which forge our leaders in the depths of intellectual studies, that the trauma of a scary or politically incorrect costume will send our youth over the edge and into the arms of comforting counselors? Trauma? Seriously? How is this type of coddling preparing these young adults for the harsh and sometimes cruel reality that is life on this planet? Life is scary at times, it can be uncomfortable, disturbing and at times utterly offensive.
Let’s go back a few decades to previous generations of Americans that suffered actual trauma in their life, starting with the aptly termed Greatest Generation. As children they endured this country’s worst economic depression, lived through one of the worst agricultural disasters lasting years and then they were called to save the entire world from fascist domination. They fought through the worst conflict in modern history, World War II, and they won. The anguish and torment they endured was the very crucible that forged them.
Next up is the generation that towed the line in America’s most unpopular war, Vietnam. They fought bravely and with honor despite the fact that the majority of them were drafted. After a year of savage fighting, those who beat the odds and arrived safely home were welcomed with shouts of “baby-killer” and other abuses unfathomable to today’s PC-obsessed society. And if that wasn’t enough, they endured the catastrophe that was the VA system and spent decades under a fog of shame, a shame still haunting many. These brave men and women experienced what no honorable combat veteran should ever endure, shame.
Finally, to my generation and the 1% of who answered the call to serve in what has become the longest war in US history, the Global War on Terror. Many of these troops have deployed three, four, five or more times as America’s modern military is an all-volunteer force. By forgoing a draft this nation now relies on less than 1% of its population to shoulder the entire burden of global security and enforcement of American foreign policy. Meanwhile, the focus of the American people moves on to more important topics, like how brave Caitlyn Jenner is, or the hero worship of the latest pop star, both of which embody our self-obsessed/self-absorbed culture.
If the University of Florida is looking for volunteer counselors, I have some suggestions for them. Why not look for men like Buck Doyle, a Marine who was wounded several times from a determined sniper, while directing the evacuation of a wounded buddy from the battlefield. There is no question this event was incredibly traumatic, but his unwavering dedication to his fellow Marines despite the clear threat to his own life is truly inspiring. I am quite sure Mr. Doyle could advise these wayward students on what true trauma is and how to overcome.
Or perhaps the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Taya, who courageously supported her husband through four tours to some of the worst combat zones imaginable. She watched as these trips downrange took their toll on the love of her life. Then once it seemed the worst was finally behind them, Chris was gunned down by the hands of a fellow veteran. Maybe Taya could (wo)man the phones at the University of Florida and describe to these young men and women what it is like to suffer trauma beyond their worst nightmares and the strength it takes to want to survive.
Even a mostly run-of-the-mill combat medic such as me could instruct these kids on what real trauma is: what it is like to watch the life drain away from a child’s face after he was wounded in an IED attack meant for US soldiers; the kind of mental trauma that exists after seeing the death and destruction that results when metal and human flesh collide; the horrors that men are capable of and the things they do to those they once called their brother; the indescribable barbarity that is modern warfare, the pain and suffering it brings, the cruelty of death that follows and the ghastly burden of being a witness to it all.
Don’t get me wrong, we all have trauma in our lives, some worse than others, and each one affects us individually. However, has our culture been sissified to the point that costumes that reflect views not necessarily agreed upon results in trauma that requires professional help?
Maybe we have ourselves as parents to blame for our obsession with trying to shield and protect our kids from the harshness that is real life. One answer might be a mandatory system of service to those young citizens just ripe off the high school tree. The big green (or blue for our Navy & Air Force friends) machine will march the trauma right out of them and replace it with General Orders and a Code of Conduct that would carry them through the rest of their life. A system of mandatory service would not only provide some real structure and direction for many a misguided youth, but would drastically change their perspective from selfish to selfless, something every one of us should strive towards.
Featured image courtesy of Newsmax