This Woman…

I see this woman, every week, usually on Tuesdays, at the Veteran’s Hospital.

She’s usually dressed mid-professional, clean-cut, jeans are ironed, and whatnot.

I am pretty certain she is a veteran. She doesn’t have a hospital badge, I’ve seen her with the elastic around her arm, like they give when you’ve had your blood drawn, and she carries herself like a Marine, in charge of her destiny or her troops…most of the time.

Twice, I have seen her recoil from loud, startling noises, and hit the deck. Once, I asked her if she was OK, and she replied, in a voice that probably didn’t sound like her own, “Don’t touch me!”

I want to tell her, it will get better. It’s slow as hell, but it will get better. I want to tell her, “I’ve been there, still, more often than I have the courage to admit.” I want to tell her it will be OK.

But how do I start this conversation with a practical stranger? I wouldn’t be comfortable if someone I didn’t know said this to me–it even sounds a bit condescending as I type it.

There is a huge need in this country, and probably in others, to have a conversation about how to interact with returning soldiers suffering from PTSD. It’s high time it wasn’t the elephant in the room.

How do I reach out to this woman, this perfect stranger?



  1. It’s damn difficult sometimes to make the link.
    Mil recognize mil by manner, speech, and sometimes by mark.

    Manner is invisible to civilians, not to mil.
    Speech? Milspeak like you used to.
    Mark? Cap or vet badge. Hell ex mil have spoken to me as my old rucksack still has my service number on it, faded but visible.

    All this has worked for me on the streets.

    Too often those who need help are too embarrassed or scared to ask. Or they just don’t know how to ask so they push away those who try. A trust issue from having been plunged back into civi street where trust is nil.

    So don’t ask if she needs help, ask for her help.

    Mil help mil. Or they did in my day.
    That never goes away.
    Then comes joe or Nj and a chat about finer times.

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