On this Memorial Day we acknowledge that freedom is not free.

Memorial Day is in honor of those who died while serving in the armed forces to stop the global march of tyranny.

My first  Memorial Day at a National Cemetery was at the Dayton VAMC, ten years ago.  I didn’t know there was a National Cemetery at the Dayton VAMC, nor did I know that this was the 3rd oldest VA in the country, serving civil war soldiers, soldiers addressed by President Abraham Lincoln!

2018 Memorial Day, a windy, rainy day,  I am at the Sarasota National Cemetery, with a moment of silence at 3:00 pm.  I am again reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s words:

“With malice toward none, with charity toward all…let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and for his orphan, and to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations”.

And to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.

Claude Anshin Thomas, a Vietnam Vet, who wrote the book, “At Hell’s Gate:  A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace”, asks us to consider – “We all have our own Vietnam’s” … as he describes the violence in the home he grew up with, describing his father, a WWII Vet. My uncle served in WWII, injured in the Battle of the Bulge, and captured as a POW.  He was interrogated as a German spy (his last name was German) and threatened execution daily.  A week later, he was spared execution and transferred to a POW Camp.  He was among the first to be liberated at the end of WWII.  My father was a High School Senior when receiving word that his oldest brother was MIA.  My father joined the Merchant Marines and left for Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, the day after graduation.  He was at sea when he received word that his brother was POW,  and soon after, the war ended.  No one talked about it – understandably as there are no words.

How many similar stories?  How many children were born into homes where the sacred stories of trauma have been trapped in the bodies of these soldier for years.  How many fathers were triggered when their young sons in high school, were being drafted into the Vietnam War?  Now we are a culture with a huge gaping wound, a collective trauma, with adult children of Vietnam Vets who grew up in homes with alcoholism, drug addiction, and angry fathers.

Let us be reminded of Lincoln’s words.  One of the Pillars of Trauma Recovery is Bearing Witness, holding safe space for the sacred stories of trauma, shepherding individuals and communities through trauma recovery, discovering The Peace that is waiting.

Standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, my eye caught the title of the Time documentary, “1968 – The Year That Shaped a Generation”.  I was 16 in 1968.  I became a changed person that year.

That was the year I would cry when I went to bed at night, the next morning, cry in the shower.  A few times I cried at school.  When the crying started, I could not stop.  Once my High School teacher asked me if I wanted to go home.  No, that was the last place I wanted to be.

When I was home I wanted to be invisible, I had lost my voice.  I went to my room after school, came down for dinner, and went back to my room.  My mom asked me once at dinner if I was on drugs because I just started and quit talking.

I had two brothers, 1 year older, and 1 ½ year younger.  My older brother loved listening to loud music by the Beatles.  He bought a Volkswagen Beetle and totaled it the next week.  He grew long hair, and my dad’s punishment was taking him to the barber for a burr.

My younger brother was diagnosed with a very rare bone disorder and had been told by his doctors at Children’s Hospital he would stop growing.  He was in so much pain, he had to crawl up the stairs some nights to bed.  He prayed at night “Dear God, please when I wake up in the morning, make me tall”.  When he woke up the next morning he would not be tall.

The Vietnam War was escalating. My friends were having discussions about how to evade the draft.  Martin Luther King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.  The Civil Rights Movement was escalating with increasing violent riots in cities surrounding my community.

My personality changed.  I was the happy, smiling, “girl next door”, always taking the lead in planning the next fun activity and adventures for the neighborhood, prior to 1968.

In 1968, I became invisible and lost my voice.  I was carrying the pain for the entire family, and could not stop crying.  Now, with 40 years nursing experience, 23 years hospice experience, and 7 years developing a program caring for Veterans at end of life, bearing witness for the stories of trauma, holding a sacred space for the telling of their stories.  Bearing witness comes with a cost.

Families are hearing stories for the first time after 40, 50, maybe 60 years – horrific stories they do not want to hear.  Triggers of trauma frozen in the sensory and nervous system.  Bearing witness, holding a safe, sacred space for the trauma story is a pillar for trauma recovery.

As I reflect on the 50th Anniversary of 1968, I now have a greater awareness of my triggers of frozen trauma, finding my voice.  I may help you recover from trauma, possibly frozen trauma for the past 50 years, and to find your voice.