When you hear the term, “Wounded Veteran”, how do you picture the wound? Are they missing their legs? Did they lose their hearing and now require a hearing aid? Were they involved in an IED explosion and sustained 3rd degree burns? These are all serious and valid wounds. However, do you ever consider the invisible wounds?
Traumatic Brain Injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress, Depression, and many other mental, moral, and emotional wounds tend to be brushed under the rug when people talk about the barriers soldiers face once they return home.
Marriages are falling apart. Public outbursts of violence are increasing. Approximately 20 Veterans commit suicide every day. With all of these realities, why aren’t more people addressing the heart of the matter? Why aren’t more people willing to talk about the invisible barriers Veterans struggle with day-in and day-out?
Everyone can see the physical barriers, and most people are willing to make accommodations for those physical barriers. There are plenty of wheelchair ramps, handicap-accessible restrooms, and handicapped parking spots available in the public. “Out of sight, out of mind” — isn’t that the excuse people use whenever they neglect issues that aren’t right in front of them? Is that the case for society, or simply that people are uncomfortable accommodating that which they cannot understand? Regardless of the reason, let’s go through some basic ways to support Veterans who struggle with invisible barriers:
- Listen to them: If a Veteran wants to talk — about anything — be willing to listen. Hear them out, and acknowledge what they’re saying. You may not be able to relate to what they’re experiencing, but allowing them to confide in you offers solace. Some Veterans don’t want to talk. If that’s the case, saying a simple, “I’m here for you if you ever want to talk about anything,” can be just as impactful as listening. Making yourself available should the occasion ever arise reminds them that someone cares about them and what they’re going through.
- Don’t be too quick to judge: Have you ever noticed a “seemingly normal” person walking around with a service dog, and thought something along the lines of, “They don’t seem like they need a service dog. They just want an excuse to bring their pet inside pubic spaces”? Let’s reframe that thinking. Consider this: that “seemingly normal” person might have a service dog to alert them when they’re about to have a seizure. Consider this as well: that “seemingly normal” person might have a service dog to calm them down whenever their PTSD is set off. Whatever the case may be, the appropriate thought process should be more like this: “I see this person has a service dog, but don’t see any obvious reasons why they need one. There must be a less obvious, unseen issue that warrants the need of a service dog.” Consideration can go a long way.
- TALK about invisible barriers: Bringing awareness to the fact that many Veterans deal with issues that cannot be seen helps alleviate future misconceptions and break down any associated stigmas. Two common barriers that many Veterans face are “social” and “thought” barriers. Does the community have a negative perception of the Veteran who chooses to be anti-social? Does the Veteran have a severe lack of self-esteem due to the fact that they struggle in a way that most people don’t understand? Advocating for Veterans’ rights includes advocating for invisible barriers, and talking about those barriers creates a stronger sense of support.
At Purple Heart Homes, we create barrier-free homes for Veterans to promote freedom from the barriers they face inside of the home. If a Veteran cannot find comfort inside their home, then how much more difficult is it for them to find comfort outside their home? We make every effort to address any and all barriers a Veteran may face in their daily life. What are some of the ways you support Veterans who struggle with barriers?