This Soldier's Heart weekend back in 2013 was so powerful, I've felt the need to write about it and share with all of you my experience. The vision, message, purity of intention, nobility, wisdom, and deep conviction of Dr. Tick's work to heal the hearts and souls of our veterans is so important, so vital to the renewing and restoring of our warriors and society, it needs to be spread.
Before I go into detail of my experience at the retreat, I want to share with you how Dr. Tick and Kate describe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They call it Post-Traumatic Soul Distress. Having had first hand experience with this, I know this to be absolutely, unequivocally true. Our souls are in distress. In a moment in time our souls are shattered, broken. These wounds sear our hearts, we become fragments of who we used to be, disconnected from ourselves, disconnected from the world around us, and we wonder if life will ever be filled with joy again. It takes immense courage, compassion for self and others, determination, and a fearless commitment to reclaim and create the life you were meant to live. Believe me, I know. The hardest part of the journey is the return, and to do it requires an understanding of the true nature of the warrior's path.
Sitting Bull said,
"You tribes behold me, the Chiefs of old are gone, and myself, I shall take courage."When you're on the warrior's path, you can't change it. You are on that path for life. What is so important is the stories we tell. The stories of our soldiers' are our stories, and yet, as a society and community, we've made this disconnect where they have to bear the brunt of their stories and keep it within them, and hence, they suffer alone.
We need to help soldier's speak their honorable past. They went there with honor, and they should come back with honor. Now, we've artificially created the non-combatant/combatant veteran and this negatively affects veterans who have PTSD that never experienced combat. War has a very long chain, everyone is exposed; you are a part of that war machine. A person who never sees combat and yet who sees the body bags coming in in order to identify the bodies can suffer just as severely as any combat veteran. We should never judge another person's suffering. Another example. An officer who sends his men on a routine mission and they suddenly find themselves caught in an ambush. He hears their cries and screams, bullets flying and bombs exploding in the background, and he stands there in total helplessness and terror for the welfare of his soldiers for he can't do anything to prevent or stop the tragedy from happening. This man or woman can be crippled by PTSD for life.
War has very long tentacles. It particularly affects family members. Anyone who has ever lived with a veteran know this. The vet comes back from the war with the war still raging inside of them. The family members bear the brunt of having to deal with all the pain, all the toxic emotions, and all the suffering that their veteran is experiencing.
Military service itself can be very traumatizing. We are broken down. It is a breaking down of your own unique individuality. This is necessary in order for the unit to work together as one in times of war. However, in order to bring our warrior's back, we must rejoice in the warrior's healing. In order to rejoice in the warrior's healing, we have to start thinking differently. We have to start thinking differently about warfare, about warriors, and about the invisible wounds of war and start thinking from a holistic, spiritual perspective. What do I mean by this?
The warrior's path is a psycho-spiritual journey. The spiritual warrior is an archetype; it's been with us a very long time. It's been around since man first stepped foot on this planet, in every tribe, in every nation, in every culture. The problem is, in the last 4000 years or so, we've not stayed true to the values and ethos of the spiritual warrior. What it's been about is greed, conquest, and aggression. It's been a perversion of what the warrior ethos is all about. No wonder so many men and women are broken.
Warriorhood is built into us. It's among the archetypes that hold us together in our collective unconscious. What we've forgotten is the path of return. And there are paths of return that have been in all cultures and all religions, but we've forgotten about them. The Bible is loaded with rituals to bring soldier's back home; Native American rituals as well. But because society as a whole doesn't want to deal with these pains and having to accept responsibility for their part in placing these soldiers in harms way, we prevent them from making that return journey. There is a warrior and civilian contract. They are out there serving us. And they are embarking on the hero's journey, everyone is, when we send people to war.
Part 2 tomorrow.
Please visit Soldier's Heart's website at www.soldiersheart.net to learn more about the work being done to restoring our warriors and communities. If you are inspired, please donate!
Charlie Pacello, an Air Force veteran, is a Life Coach and Healing Expert for PTSD, Depression, Addiction, and Trauma. He is a facilitator with the Mindful Warrior Project, an author, inspirational speaker, and a candidate for a Masters in Psychology and Theater at Burlington College. Charlie also works as a trainer with the Soldier's Heart program and with Drs. Ed Tick and Sarah Larsen in trauma release and healing. He is also the creator of the program, 'Lt. Pacello's Life Training Program' based on his work in healing his own PTSD, depression, addiction, and trauma. Charlie graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1996 and was commissioned an officer. He comes from a family of veterans: his grandfather fought in WWII, his father fought in Vietnam, and he was on the front lines of nuclear warfare. All suffered from PTSD. Charlie struggled to make that return journey home and is now committed to helping others succeed as he has. He can be reached by visiting his website at www.charliepacello.com