A War Within
Mandy is an Oregon Army Reserve Iraq veteran who spoke to my class last term about what it is like to return to PCC as a vet, even when there isn’t an “Active Shooter Alert Drill.”
Many vets are consumed with anger, which became a survival instinct in Iraq. “Anger makes things happen in the military,” Mandy, a slender, ramrod-straight, dead-serious young woman, told us matter-of-factly.
When she returned to PCC as a student, she said it was “hard not to use my anger in the classroom, in crowds, when people express opinions.”
Mandy described how Iraq vets never “come all the way home.” Their Iraq experience has fused with their being. Part of them is still at war.
That’s why some sit in the back of the room where they have the whole class — and the door — in view. They seem withdrawn, and many are.
That’s why crowds represent danger to them. As many as one-third suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
That’s why in the give-and-take of the classroom, “it’s hard to hear others’ opinions about the war,” Mandy said. “The war is part of me.”
That’s why “Support the Troops; don’t support the War,” doesn’t cut it with Mandy and, she believes, many other vets.
Working now at the Portland Vets Center, Mandy counsels returning vets, whom she calls “family.” Many of her family decide to resume their lives at home by going to PCC.
The thought of an “Active Shooter Alert Drill” intruding on the lives of the vets at PCC gives me chills. The posters explained that when the drill's alarms sound, everyone should seek "the safest place possible and conceal and cover yourself."
Those are orders frighteningly familiar to war-plagued Iraq vets.
Will there never be peace in their lives?