Rob Jones Journey

Rob Jones on battle scars: 'We still need you'

September 13, 2018 - 10:54 am
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By Rob Jones, Special to ConnectingVets.com

The culture of the military is unique amongst those in the world.  It praises and rewards qualities such as strength, endurance, resilience, responsibility, loyalty, fighting spirit, and brotherhood, to name a few.  These traits are perfectly suitable for warfighting, and are, in fact, required.  The stronger these characteristics are in an individual or a unit, the better warriors they are.

This culture is so deeply ingrained in our servicemembers and our branches of service that any deviation from the finest representation of it is met with scorn.  Not only by the members of the military as a whole but to the individuals who feel they are disparaging military culture.  In some cases, this scorn is justified and deserved, for instance in the case of cowardice in battle.  However, in many cases, this scorn is imagined and manufactured out of guilt for perceived sins that are no fault of their supposed perpetrator.

The most troubling of these cases is the stigma that surrounds the psychological injuries that occur in war.  It is a curious situation because if one were to take a poll of military members as to whether or not suffering a psychological injury while experiencing the worst thing on Earth would be weakness worthy of scorn, the vast majority would answer in the negative.  However, if this same injury were to fall upon them, these same people would be likely to change their answer in reference to themselves.

The reasoning for this flip-flop seems to defy logic.  Why is it that no one would find themselves in violation for having their limbs severed by an IED, an apparent weakness to blast waves, but would have an entirely different opinion about themselves in they suffer an injury of the mind?  Most likely it is due to the fact that between two different people who can experience the same event, one may recover fine from a mental standpoint, while the other may not.  However, what gets forgotten is that every mind is entirely individual.  No other brain has the exact same feelings, experiences, background, and knowledge as any other brain.  So to compare one’s ability to process and experience versus another’s is misguided at best.

This subject can be debated for years with no conclusive decision made.  Therefore, we must look to what action we can take as individuals either battling psychological injuries, or a comrade of someone who is.

The fact of the matter is, the solution may lie in the same culture that inadvertently produces the guilt.  Military members are indoctrinated with all of the qualities that they need to psychologically survive war and its resultant damage while they are ingrained with military culture during training and warfighting.  The most powerful and most wieldable of these are brotherhood and responsibility.

Do we fight alone during war?  Obviously, no.  Our units fight together on the battlefield, mutually supporting one another with their very lives.  Why would that change when the battlefield is here at home?  The answer is, it doesn’t.  A servicemember who struggles at home should not expect that their comrades would not support them there as much as they did at war.  And the comrades of these people should expect them to ask for assistance when they need it, just like at war.  That is how brotherhood works.  It has no expiration date or terms.

One of the most powerful mantras of the Marine Corps is also one of the most common: Once a Marine, always a Marine. This means that when a person earns the right to call themselves a Marine, they have that right for life.  But that honor comes packaged with the responsibilities of a Marine as well.  And, just like the honor, these responsibilities are everlasting.  We as Marines still have the responsibility to be at the ready for our country.  We have the responsibility to never stop fighting alongside our fellow Marines or fighting for them.  We have the responsibility to support our families and be in their lives.  We have the responsibility to do what is best for all of these people before what is best for ourselves.  This doesn’t just apply to Marines.  In fact, the saying may be better put as, once a warrior, always a warrior.

The key to overcoming the psychological injury and its associated stigma lies within these two facets of military culture.  It is up to us as individuals to put them to use in order to overcome this challenge.

 

Rob Jones is a Marine Corps veteran who was injured in an IED explosion in 2010.  A double amputee, Rob is a medalist in rowing at the Paralympics, he's completed a 5180 mile bike ride across the US, and in 2017, he ran 31 marathons in 31 days.  Rob's tenacity and positivity have inspired thousands of veterans through his website Rob Jones Journey.  Connecting Vets is proud to include Rob as one of our special contributors.