Nowadays, it’s impossible to turn the TV on without seeing a gun. Whether you’re tuning in to catch up with the latest season of Stranger Things or whether you’re rewatching classic Sherlock Holmes from the 1940s with Basil Rathbone, there is always a gun around. Even a gun-adverse series such as the British Doctor Who has introduced weapons in recent years, giving the Doctor a sense of darkness that sometimes feels a little too close to real life. In other words, guns have become something we all expect to see on a screen. First POV shooting games are still among the most popular downloads on the PlayStation Network, proving that not only we are not afraid of watching guns, but we also enjoy playing with them – in a virtual and safe environment, of course.
Our gun-loaded media environment has always shown an interest in war themes. Tom Hanks is currently filming a movie set to be released in May 2020 about the US Destroyer Greyhound during World War II. In fact, you may not have enough fingers to count all the war film releases this year only. But there’s always been a strong fascination about the war – any war. While World War I and II have been the most commonly exploited themes, filmmakers have also found inspiration in the Iran wars, Afghanistan war, Vietnam war, etc. at the great distress of many veterans. Indeed, the romanticized image that media give of the military actions and lifestyle is far from the truth. Veterans have complained about their portrayal and the war clichés of Hollywood. Even someone like Benedict Cumberbatch has faced criticism for the unrealistic representation of Alan Turing – the man who cracked the German Enigma codes. But what really gets veterans to grind their teeth is the idealistic representation of war and the return from war in movies. Joy, victory chants, and light-hearted feelings are nothing like what it feels to be a veteran. It’s time our media either start showing the real thing or stop glorifying war.
You’ve been trained to do one thing only
A lot of veterans agree that while they’ve received all the training they needed to progress in their military career, moving back to a normal job outside of the military bounds can be challenging. Indeed, for many, it can be tricky at first to figure out which skills are relevant in a non-military career. You might have been a war hero, but does that make you suitable for a desk job? Admittedly, time in the army is not just about doing military work. However, veterans are the first to admit that they need guidance to identify their most suitable skills. Ultimately, when you’re trained to survive the war, how do you connect to job specs that demand team players, organized minds, or friendly office personalities? There are, of course, opportunities around, such as launching your own business or following a similar path with the police or the firefighters where your frontline know-how can be useful. But the problem remains that many veterans feel disconnected from the non-military work life and fail to see where they could fit.
You don’t remember what a normal body feels like
Not all war veterans sustain injuries, but many of them come back with life-changing wounds. A veteran is more likely to face challenging medical conditions than their civilian counterparts. Unfortunately, as a result of their military activities, veterans are confronted with risky situations. While it’s part of the job, it doesn’t make it enjoyable. There are over 4.4 million disabled veterans with disabilities ranging from tinnitus to paralysis. Not only do they need adequate medical support, but they also rely on expert advice to rebuild a normal lifestyle. The last thing a veteran need is medical malpractice as the consequences could be devastating to their rehabilitation. A military malpractice lawyer can provide support in obtaining compensation to recover your costs and losses and find stability in your lifestyle. However, physical complications are often associated with mental health problems, such as feeling pain in a missing limb or continuing to hear battle sounds long after the events. For veterans, the medical support needs to address physical and mental health conditions simultaneously.
You’ve experienced things nobody else can understand
War is not a game. It’s an impossibly difficult situation where veterans have seen their friends been killed and have had to kill to protect their own lives. With technology, unfortunately, peace has become more difficult to maintain and war a lot deadlier. As a consequence, human beings surrounded by heavy machinery and weaponry are in the frontline to observe traumatic events. Death is never a pleasant company. Anyone who has driven by the scene of a car crash and has seen blood on the road can testify; death comes back to haunt you. Now put that image in a war context. It’s not just one body on the side of the road. It’s hundreds of people killed in an ambush; sometimes they’re friends, sometimes they’re enemies. Such trauma can cause a dysfunction to your perception of life. Every day, 20 veterans kill themselves because they have not received the help they needed to cope with PTSD or depression.
War isn’t a natural behavior
War is horrible. War is traumatic. War is violent. But you are ready to welcome the emotional, physical, and psychological sacrifice of millions of veterans because, as far as you are concerned, war is necessary. What would the world be without war? You can’t help but imagine that world peace is a naive and impossible wish. You believe that war is part of human nature. But a great deal of evidence suggests that this popular opinion is incorrect. Indeed, throughout prehistory, the human race has developed harmoniously without phenomena of domination and warfare. These, however, seemed to have appeared around 6000 years ago with the definition of religions and social hierarchies. Our ancestors didn’t fight each other, according to anthropologists. In fact, it’s only by 3500 BCE that signs of warfare can be spotted in areas that had been densely populated since 9000 BCE. As surprising as it might sound, war is a relatively recent invention in the history of humanity.
Veterans are heroes, yes, but of a tragedy
Nobody is ever going to deny that fact that veterans are heroes who risk their lives on the frontline. They organize troops. They respond to dangerous challenges with determination, strategy, and courage. They do things that untrained civilians wouldn’t even dream of doing. So, of course, nobody is going to question the purpose of the Veteran Day. But, what the media is guilty of doing is to make war appear glorious. There is no joy or glory in war. There is only horror, blood, and death. Each movie that relates a war story inject a little romance in the details. The soldiers have powdered noses. Their hair is clean and well-groomed. They share a hearty breakfast with the crew before filming their part. When the scene is too much, the fake soldiers can step out and relax away from the cameras. In real life, veterans are heroes of a tragedy that breaks people down and destroys nations. There is no glory in destruction, no spotlight for death.
Nobody ever wins
Only those who haven’t fought in any war claim proudly their country has won. But nobody ever wins the war. People die on both sides. For mainland Europe, history books explain that the Allies won the war. But anybody who lives in Northern France and Belgium can still see the decimated landscapes, long, flat fields where the trees have long gone. They were the scene of the battles. They are now only a desolate sight. How can someone who grows up in the middle of such an area ever identify with the concept of winning the war? Veterans carry the images of the battlefield with them, the decimated landscape, the soil dark with blood, and the trees destroyed by war machinery. They might be winners on paper, but in their heart, every veteran is a loser because they’ve all lost friends, relatives, and dreams.
The lessons to be learned are often ignored
George Santayana, Professor in philosophy, noted that history always repeats itself. Indeed, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We need to learn from the mistakes of the past to mature and avoid the same errors. But we rarely learn. The Vietnam war has taught us that great powers shouldn’t intervene to fight proxy battles. They only prolong conflicts. But the lesson was duly ignored when the civil war tore Syria apart. Great powers, once again, protected the conflict. War is always the result of ignorance; it’s impossible to imagine that we don’t have all the wisdom we need to avoid war. We do. It’s in the history books; we know how costly conflicts can be. But we choose to ignore it. All over the world, veterans unite their voices to remind the public of the lessons of the war. Veterans always remember the past. The public, however, rarely does.
For many veterans, talking about war is painful. Imagining that Hollywood has taken their nightmares and turned it into an item of entertainment is a stab in the back. If we want to go back to the peaceful society of our ancestors, we need to stop normalizing conflicts.