Serving And Living In Silence

November 10, 2015

DSCN1462November 11th is Veterans Day.

At the 2015 North American Systemic Constellation Conference, now less that a week away, one of the keynote speakers is Ed Tick, author of “War of the Soul, Healing Our Nations Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress” (2005, Quest Books). Dr. Tick has worked for more than 30 years with veterans with PTSD and sees that it is not only the soldier but their families and communities that are part of the war trauma.

In groups he leads he invites veterans to stand for a welcome home. He then asks those to stand who are spouses of veterans, children of veterans, parents of veterans, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and before long everyone in the room is usually standing. When one man or woman goes to war the entire family, personal and extended, is affected.

But this Veterans Day I want to acknowledge the many men and women who served in silence and to acknowledge their partners, who in turn waited and grieved in silence. I am speaking of the gay and lesbian members of the armed services who served with dignity, who served as career military, who served in combat zones as soldiers or medical and support personnel for a country and in a system that would for so long deny them dignity and rights as well as openly persecute them for their sexual orientation.

The life of a soldier is not easy. Frequent changes of duty stations; deployments; the possibility of being put in harms way even in peacetime are a part of military life. Those that choose to be a part of that soldier’s life themselves live with a great deal of uncertainty. These people form their own community of sorts and while it oftentimes has been imperfect there has been support within the system for the spouses and loved ones of soldiers.

But what about the partners of gay and lesbian military personnel? They face the same uncertainty and fear but unable to be a part of the community of military spouses. Before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and before even its enactment to be found out as a homosexual in the military was to be dishonorably discharged or worse. Relationships had to be kept secret.

I want to acknowledge the men and women who found ways to move with each change of station,  uprooting themselves from jobs and social contacts to follow their partners. Who lived with the lengthy absences brought on by deployments. Who knew they may be the last to know if their loved one was injured or killed. Who had no right to ask for the asking would risk exposure.

A human being’s ability to risk love at times astounds me. In a Constellation workshop the sheer force of the love that has come down through many generations humbles me.

This Veterans Day I want to honor the ones who waited in silence and the ones who grieved in silence for those who did not come back whole from war or who did not come back at all.