Whenever a group of combat veterans are gathered, retired or not, the potential for an emergency is always rather high. It’s not the type of emergency that most civilians think of first when at a Veteran event, but more on the lines of grown men reverting back to their childhood, a bunch of gigantic 11 year old boys running a muck and playing around. For the most part, they are fairly responsible in this ruckus but sometimes forget, like all adults, gravity takes its toll, bodies don’t react like they once did and then we find a problem on our hands. Unfortunately accidents happen and we do our best to be prepared, but the most amazing thing to witness is what happens all around the incident.
Military training is full of grinding drills, over and over in all sorts of weather and terrain. Whether the training is in the hot muggy Georgia summer sun or on the bitter cold mountains in Alaska skiing downhill with a 50 plus pound ruck on their back, the United States warriors are conditioned in ways to respond to an emergency that they sometimes don’t even understand. The protocols and mapping of that training has been coded into their hard drive, meaning it’s still there even when it’s not practiced and has been filed away for years. As a result, this training is recalled into action without searching for the file on the hard drive as if it is primary behavioral automatic response.
Most of the Veterans that we serve truly believe in their heart of hearts that they had deleted that file of emergency training. Many of them fear that due to their horrific trauma in combat that ultimately removed them from the theater of war, that they now have no ability to jump into action if an emergency appears in front of them. It’s hard to remember, if not a Veteran, that these men and women are natural protectors, and being a protector is a good portion of why they joined the military in the first place. Therefore, this fear of freezing and not being able to respond in an emergency to protect those around them can cause a debilitating and paralyzing sense of self. If they believe they are not able to respond in an emergency, they then believe they cannot protect their wives or children. If they believe they cannot protect those they love, then they begin to believe they are not worthy or deserving of having those loved ones, a happy life or a life at all.
What we have witnessed repeatedly on our weekend events have been some incredible breakthroughs of facing this fear head on and learning to trust again in the training our Veterans have received. We certainly do not work emergencies in on our trips to use as therapy but when they happen, we do address the powerful realizations that the fear of not being able to respond, simply shouldn’t be in their thoughts at all. The emergencies that have happened are mostly not to anyone in the group but those around us, such as people in a crowd where we are, a hunting dog injured by a wild hog, or natural medical emergency of a staff member, have presented unique opportunities for growth.
At the time of such an emergency, like a practiced emergency plan would play out, all six Veterans simply attending a weekend trip of fun, immediately transform back into the warrior on the battlefield. Those that were medics, assess the situation, perform life vitals checks and basic first aid, while the others call 911, organize the scene, and protect all others from any potential secondary accidents. They all automatically pull that file from the hard drive and go to work, they all find a role to support and engage. They all step back and see that they can in fact face trauma again, that they can protect and that they can fully function.
The root of most all stresses and anxieties is fear and any time we can combat those fears and annihilate them, we empower ourselves. Free from fear opens the door to pure joy.
WBP Team writers
Blogs are written by staff members of the Warrior Bonfire Program along with guest writers.