Royce Baker, a student in Professor Sarah Zale's English course at Edmonds Community College in Edmonds, Washington, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country" by Edward Tick.
Writing prompt: Soldiers have a responsibility to defend their country. What do you think our responsibilities are as civilians, especially as we go about our lives at home?
Read author Edward Tick's response to Royce Baker's essay here.
Read classmate Nathan Christensen's response to the same article here.
Our Patriotic Duties as Citizens During Wartime
By Royce Baker
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably never given much thought to what it means to be a soldier or veteran. Sure, I fly my flag on Flag Day and vote whenever I can, but these are merely civic responsibilities. I have always been against war, and was raised not to support things I don’t agree with. I have always spoken my mind and exercised my rights because I can as an American.
Through an English class this quarter, I attended a brown bag lecture on PTSD featuring guest speaker Dr. Edward Tick. Dr. Tick is a dedicated healer, psychotherapist, and author of one of our textbooks War and the Soul. I found Dr. Tick’s lecture inspiring, as well as informative, and his stage presence both gentle and embracing. Towards the beginning of the lecture, Dr. Tick said, “We need a healing community for all of us, not just the veterans, although if we do it correctly together, it will help the veterans.” I couldn’t agree more that a healing and kind community is crucial for the mental well-being of all of its members.
He went on to tell a fascinating story about the buffalo. When the buffalo began to be hunted, they had to develop a defensive strategy, starting with the creation of tighter communities. Once attack seemed eminent, the females and children congregated to make up the center of the circle, the tough young go-getters surrounded them, and the elders mobilized as a first defense. With this cooperative system, injured buffalo were able to make their way to the center to be nurtured by the women and children.
I found this concept key to understanding that whether or not I support war, a nurturing and understanding community is exactly what our soldiers need when they come home. These simple gestures are often all it takes for our soldiers to feel as though their efforts were worthwhile and valued. Simply listening to stories can help absorb some of the burdens of war that soldiers often carry selflessly. The adage “don’t hate the player, hate the game” applies directly to this situation because our soldiers are fighting battles in our name. Agreeing with those battles makes no difference when it comes to being a patriotic citizen during wartime.
What other responsibilities should be asked of citizens to aid in war efforts? What about a personal touch? In World War II, the “knit your bit” slogan galvanized a network of knitters that made thousands of socks for soldiers and others in need. people were brought together by slogans encouraging citizens to “knit their bit” so that everybody had socks that were provided with love. What personal touch can we provide soldiers in 2010, to show our love and devotion? I think that a good start would be an occasional news story or parade, specifically for our troops overseas, would really brighten everyone’s lives, as well as reminding the public of the importance of these men and women who are risking it all to do what they are told. Another idea might be to start a care package exchange program providing random treats from strangers. With current technology soldiers could receive e-mails from students and families who want to make a point of saying thank you. Perhaps most importantly, our soldiers need to come home to a country that loves and respects them, and make them proud because America is worth fighting for.
Dr. Tick makes many references throughout his book to the evolution of a warrior. He also believes that society should embrace its soldiers upon their return and help mold them into the guiding roles within the community. These warriors, who have learned the importance of protecting life rather than destroying it, can then guide our country even closer to world peace. This is why Tick also believes that once we have studied war enough—and healed from it—we can become a society that is able to move away from it. I can only hope that he is right, because our efforts should be directed toward protecting the planet for many generations to come, instead of fighting senseless wars.
Royce Baker is a second-year student at Edmonds Community College, with an emphasis in Chemistry. Royce was a cook for many years before returning to school. He currently lives on Whidbey Island where he enjoys disc golfing, snow boarding, and walking his dog,but can usually be found commuting between Whidbey and Edmonds.
Like Royce Baker, I watched war’s ravages and have always been against it. Like Nathan Christensen, I knew untimely deaths of loved ones and felt that “a small hole had been irreplaceably ripped out of the universe.” Like all of us, I have inherited citizenship in a country that has participated in war to a degree that “incites revulsion.” In American wars and combat operations before and since World War II, our country has too often been the aggressor and perpetrator.
The tension between service to one’s country and protesting that service when it seems immoral creates a quagmire for everyone who comes of age during controversial and illegitimate wars. We wish patriotism and morality to be one. We become confused and may turn against those who serve in our name when we perceive that morality and patriotism are at odds.
The warrior’s ethical, spiritual, and cultural code is strictly this – to preserve, protect and defend his or her society and all that is most precious to it when there is immediate threat and no other option. Whenever the warrior does more or less than this code dictates, trauma results.
The task of society is to receive, support, tend and initiate the warrior upon return in gratitude for and honor toward the sacrifice made. Whenever society in any way rejects, neglects, dishonors or ignores its warriors, trauma results.
Millions of Americans who have served in recent wars are crippled with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder because they were compelled while in service to betray the warrior’s code and because society rejected them by refusing its tending tasks, blaming them for their war, and refusing collective responsibility.
Nathan and Royce have transformed their relationships to warriors and society by broadening their understanding of what a warrior is and what citizens’ responsibilities must be. Nathan “no longer places the blame” on those who fight in our name but realizes that “modern society puts those warriors in such dire circumstances” and that “their humanity is robbed too.” Royce affirms that “our soldiers fight battles in our name” and “agreeing with those battles makes no difference when it comes to being a patriotic citizen during wartime.”
Both men declare: we are all responsible for what is done in our name; we must all be disturbed and take positive actions during wartime; we must receive and tend our returnees; we must listen, listen, listen, opening ourselves to the pain our troops carry because it is our responsibility and belongs to all of us. When we take these critical actions as citizens, we help transform our warriors, as Royce says, “into guiding role models… who protect life rather than destroy it [and] can help lead our country even closer to world peace.”
Nathan and Royce now affirm there is no conflict between protesting war and supporting our troops who must fight. When we understand the purpose of warriorhood and the responsibility of citizens, we can embrace and practice war healing and peace making as one united effort.
Edward Tick, PdD, is author of War and the Soul and three other books. He has worked with veterans for three decades and is director and senior psychotherapist of Soldier's Heart Veteran's Safe Return Initiatives.
- Want an opportunity for your students to step up their writing and write for a real audience? Learn about how to join the YES! Magazine Exemplary Essay Project here.
- Soldier's Heart
Created in response to an outpouring of concern for returning and past war veterans, Soldier's Heart addresses the emotional, moral, and spiritual needs of veterans, their families, and communities.
- Roots of Compassion
To be compassionate toward others, we first have to learn to be merciful with ourselves.
- Fort Hood: We're Killing Ourselves
Grace Boggs on breaking free from cycles of violence.
The above resources accompany the December 2010 YES! Education Connection Newsletter
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