I introduced Michael to the National Memorial Day Concert airing on PBS last night. I’ve watched it for the past fifteen years. Michael, however, was unaware of it and was unsure what it was about. Due to his PTSD he is often conflicted on how he feels about his military service. Only recently has he begun to feel proud of his service and his contributions to the Air Force. He went into the military as the old man of twenty four years. After basic training he was assigned to work on jet engines and moved to California to Castle Air Force to work on the B-52 bomber. During his time in California he mastered the jet engine, progressed up the Sargent levels and became an instructor. He traveled around the world and became a flying specialist which meant he traveled with the bombers where they went. One thing Michael told me about flying all over is that where he sat on the plane behind electronic warfare operator is that his seat was not equipped with an ejection and parachute mechanism. The pilot, copilot and ewo had ejection seats. So if anything went wrong on the plane Michael was going down with the plane or would have been killed when the ewo ejected the plane. After the base closed in California and the b-52’s were transferred elsewhere Michael transferred to Dover Air Force base and worked on the C-5 cargo plane until he was medically discharged.
Through Michael’s work with his therapist and my support he is starting to be proud of his work and time in the military. He like many veterans are quiet and private about their time
in the different branches. Recently I found a place online that has tshirts, hats, bumper stickers etc for every branch of the military. I found a tshirt that has the b-52 bomber on it and Michael was excited that it was the model bomber he worked on. I ordered some bumper stickers and a sweatshirt too. I didn’t tell Michael about it until the tshirt arrived. He was very excited and wore the shirt proudly. He is looking forward to putting the bumper stickers on his truck and car.
Michael for a long time focused on being medically discharged from the Air Force and not all the years he put it. All the stress and responsibilities of being a jet engine mechanic working under the Strategic Air Command. I am happy he is starting to be proud of his life in the Air Force. It carries over to the present of our life.
Getting back to the National Memorial Day Concert. It is a show that plays patriotic music and actors read different veterans experiences from different wars the USA has been involved in. After the actors finish speaking the words and experiences of the veterans they walk down into the audience and speak to and thank the actual veteran who’s story they read. Sometimes if the veteran lost their life in combat the actor meets the family in the crowd. Last night there was three readings- a reading from the Vietnam war by two actors, a reading by an actress on the Iraq war and finally a reading by an actor on the Vietnam War. It was the reading by the actor who read about the veteran’s experience being a leader of his men and how many they lost during the battle. He also shared his struggles with post traumatic stress he refused to call it PTSD as he said it is not a disorder but a natural way for the body and brain to react to trauma. He shared his struggles with coming to grips with post traumatic stress and how he has gone on to aid fellow vets. It caught Michael’s attention and became emotional listening to the soldiers stories. I paused the show and said to Michael did you hear what the man just said? He stated it is not a disorder and isn’t a weakness or character flaw. That has been the hardest thing for Mike to accept that he is not weak or weak of character. I was grateful we watched the show as that man’s story is something I will take with me the rest of my life. I hope to use it as a tool to help Michael especially when times get hard. Thankfully he has rebounded remarkably well now after a downturn last week. I feel like I have Michael back to me again.