As an ex-GI, I often find my heart and loving-kindness practice embracing our enlisted men and women throughout the world, and especially those in war zones.
War is hell. That’s no cliché, and only those who have been in combat can truly testify to what that phrase means. That’s why around Veterans Day I highlighted the amazing book At Hell’s Gate—A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace by Zen teacher Claude Anshin Thomas:
And shared some compassionate wise teachings from his book in this post:
But it’s not enough merely to pay tribute at Veteran’s Day and then go on about our lives as if cost to our enlisted men and women has been taken care of.
The physical and mental trauma of war continues long after a soldier leaves the combat zone, and sadly, many of our fathers, sons, and brothers are so overwhelmed by their mental pain that they kill themselves (the suicides are mainly men.)
As explained at War News Update:
Shocking new figures show the number of soldiers who committed suicide in January could top the number of soldiers killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan last month.
In a rare move, the Army released monthly suicide data Thursday to highlight the growing problem. Last week, Army officials said its suicide rates were at their highest in nearly 30 years.
Sadly, 2010 has been little different, with June of 2010 being the worst month on record, with one G.I. suicide a day. Clearly, we as a society are not doing enough for our soldiers in terms of compassionate counseling and medical help. And sadly, this has been the case after every war America has ever fought. Even more appalling, this has been the case throughout mankind’s history. Young men have always been seen as dispensable—used by societies and then discarded. We see this in war, and we see this in the suicide bombers of terrorists of every ilk.
UPDATE: August 2011 – Unfortnately, the tragedy of military suicides continues, as this August 16th, 2011 CNN article explains:
The article 2011 article states:
So far in 2011, the Air Force has had 28 suicides, the Marines 21 and the Navy 33. Even though those three services have a combined total force equal to the Army’s, their number of suicides are about half the Army’s 163.
Clearly, there is still so much more we can do, both within the military and in our society to help stop the loss of lives. Whatever actions we can take individually and as a society to help soldiers deal with the trauma of war, must be taken with a sense of urgency and with great compassion and wisdom. We can’t afford to be so naïve and uncaring about the effects of war on our sons, fathers, and brothers, and yes, our mothers, sisters, and daughters who serve in combat. We owe this to the young men and women who sacrifice so much, often for dubious causes.
How You Can Help Yourself with Metta—Loving-kindness Meditation
As readers of this blog know, I advocate directed, specific metta—loving-kindness meditation—for beings in need, animals, human, even whole living ecosystems. This radiation of love, this light from our hearts, has the power to heal minds and bodies, and not just own own, but others as well.
Many people pray, but I feel metta practice offers something unique that’s worth looking into. If this practice is unfamiliar to you, I recommend this post, The Power of Love to Heal our Bodies which explains how to do metta step by step. Click on this link to see it:
If you’ve have your own metta practice, this post is an invitation to address in earnest the problem of suicide in our armed forces, if you are not already doing so. These suffering hearts and minds, many of whom are on the brink of self-destruction, need love from every avenue, including what we can bring from the radiant love in our own hearts in metta and prayer.
If you wish to learn more about the power of metta to heal, these other posts will also be of help:
While not specifically on metta practice, these articles should also be of great help:
May these teachings be a comfort and aid to you and those you love and care for!