(It is war. And it is mine. )
The headlines that meet me today are about the war in Ukraine. Alarms going off, people fleeing, soldiers killed (on both sides of the front lines), an increasingly harsh exchange of views from the parties involved. The pictures I see are of dead people, destroyed cities, scared civilians and equally scared soldiers.
It’s war. And it’s mine.
A woman said it so wisely:
If you have experienced a war, all later wars become your war.
The front row to a war
I am one of those who unfortunately sat in the front row during a war, (Lebanon War 1982), where Israeli soldiers entered Lebanon’s borders to fight the PLO.
- Israel invaded southern Lebanon on June 6, 1982
- The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) entered along four axes. One of the axes crossed the Metulla border post and past the Lebanese village of Ebel Es Saqi. Across Norbatt’s area (The Norwegian UN force in Lebanon).
- During the first three hours, 200 tanks and PPKs (armored personnel carriers) passed through the area.
- 80 F16 fighter jets were in air combat with approx. 90 Syrian MIG fighters over the same area.
- 80 MIG fighter jets were shot down and one Israeli F16 aircraft was lost.
- Norbatt registered approx. 800 direct hits from Katyusha rockets and grenade launchers over the course of nine days.
- Within Ebel Es Saqi (a small area at the size of 4 footballfields), approx. 80 shots from grenade launchers and Katyusha rockets hit us.
- Only one Norwegian soldier lost his life as a result of the acts of war.
- An unknown number of Palestinian and Israeli soldiers, as well as Lebanese civilians, lost their lives during the fighting.
- During the invasion, Israel went in with approx. 120,000 soldiers.
How to deal with evil
I was 19 years old at the time and the events that marked me and that gave me PTSD have followed me since it happened. Although I personally have a theory that it was not the actual outbreak of war that caused the damage in my head, but rather what we experienced in the hours, days and months afterwards.
We had many bad experiences. We had to deal with a lot of deaths, civilians who were killed or had their lives destroyed. We had constant death threats hanging over us. We were in sharp situations almost daily, because in an area completely without law and order, many people with evil intentions appeared. On top of that we were exhausted. No sleep, constant vigilance an so on.
How not to destroy your psyche
Let me then move forward a bit. As a veteran, I know in every part of the body how bad it must be to be directly involved in the war in Ukraine. It is the same story as what the people of Lebanon experienced (and partly experience)
It gives me on the one hand a feeling that I should not interfere in this, on the other hand it gives me a feeling of having to contribute in some way. I know that by following news from war zones, I get involved more than I should. I do not think I am retraumatized, but thoughts that I do not benefit from this at all, pop into my head.
…was a kind of acid test for me
In the past, I have participated both in helping boat refugees from Syria and contributed to relief shipments aimed at people in need. I remember that standing on a beach on Lesvos in the dark of night and receiving rescued civilians was a kind of acid test for me. Did I endure it without destroying the fragile psyche I had painstakingly built up over many years after the war in Lebanon? The answer was yes. I was a resource, and I was not (further) harmed by it.
Make a difference
My point today is that if you are a veteran, stay up to date so you know what’s going on, but do not overdo it. If you want to contribute, find a level that you can live with without it making you sicker. Help in the local community, or, as some veterans now do, go to a border where there are refugees, preferably under the auspices of a larger aid organization, and contribute there.
Make a difference on the level you are at.
And for the record: Do not join as a combat soldier. It will not help, neither for you, your family nor for those you think you can help. It will only lead to more suffering.
You can contribute in so many other ways to help those who are suffering in this cruel war.