The last few days of speaking with alumni and friends awaiting for the corona virus to reach their ICU units, I could hear many of the same thoughts and fears I experienced leading up to the first time rolling out of the wire in Iraq back in 2004. While the enemy is vastly different, many of the preparations look the same. Going over training and procedures, taking stock of supplies and figuring out where you will scrounge for the important stuff, studying tactics employed by others already in the fight, and the insufferable waiting.
"The waiting is probably the worst part."
The waiting is probably the worst part. You have plenty of time to wonder if you are properly trained, mentally up to the challenge, or if you will let those around you down? Just as when we made our maiden combat mission, there is little the public can do to support you in this fight (other than literally doing nothing for the next couple weeks). Please know that we are thankful for you tending to our loved ones and showing them compassion and kindness when they are scared and separated from their families due to this virus.
The community will show that support in many ways, some meaningful and touching and some...well intended. For our part, The Battle Within has created the free Warrior Teletherapy Network with local licensed therapists to reach out to when the days become overwhelming. As a combat veteran who has spent the last four years finally facing what had occurred fifteen years ago, I genuinely hope you utilize this free service.
We asked someone with more experience sitting on the eve of great events to share a few words as well. Please see the letter below from Retired Army Colonel Scott Weaver, who has given a few of these speeches leading up to deployments prior to Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
GREATER KANSAS CITY CHAPTER
ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY
P.O. BOX 32212, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI 64171
We are in an extraordinary time. Our community, our nation and our fellow human beings across the world, all of us, are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel corona virus SARS-Co-V2. This health emergency has disrupted our daily routines. Uncertainty is in our faces. We concerned for our friends, our family, ourselves and the future. We can gather together emotionally and spiritually, even as we do the right thing to protect one another by keeping a physical distance between us.
As health professionals and emergency first responders, you must instead move close to care for those infected and suffering life-threatening effects of COVID-19. You're professionals, you’re getting information and learning all you can to prepare for the local outbreak. You’ve taken in the numbers, the statistics and the estimates. You’ve also heard and read the accounts of your colleagues already fighting COVID-19 in hospitals in the U.S. and abroad. Now, it is not military expertise and courage, but instead yours we rely on to see us safe to the far side of this pandemic.
Courage is never the absence of fear. Instead, it involves accepting its presence and determining still to do one’s duty and refusing to let one’s teammates down. Nice words, sure. How can you be of good courage? Some of what you’re thinking, and much of what you’re feeling, mirrors what combat troops experience before their time at war.
Many combat veterans, me included, will say what helps most is staying busy. Quiet, unfilled moments carry the mind to worries about family, finances, and all the unwanted possibilities. Practicing drills and rehearsing procedures builds trust and teamwork. The small routines of inspecting and keeping one’s critical tools in readiness is its own meditation. Conversations with colleagues--about food or sports or school experiences while doing some shared activity--carries one's mood to a better place. So does physical exertion. Faith and spiritual practices give the mind stillness. Letter writing, journaling or talking with a confidant is like discharging a static electricity build-up. These are some ways to deposit unsettling feelings so you stop carrying them around.
The moment of action is near, and you’ll soon be a veteran if you aren’t one already. Events of the coming weeks and months will affect all of us. Comfort with uncertainty is one result of experiencing a life-threatening situation where almost everything’s beyond your personal control. Be of good courage, you aren’t alone.
M. Scott Weaver
Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired
Chapter President | www.kcausa.org
Scott Weaver is a retired Army combat veteran. He served as an infantry officer and strategist. His strategic-level assignments focused on Southwest Asia, Europe and Africa. His operational experience included Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Kosovo Air War, Operation Northern Watch, and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Scott is president of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Association of the United States Army. It’s mission is to be a voice for the Army that supports soldiers, civilians, veterans and their families through educational programs and community outreach.
Justin is the Executive Director of The Battle Within where he works to help our nation's veterans and first responders find their path of healing. He is also an Army combat veteran who served as a radio operator during a tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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Born from a group of veterans and first responders seeking to overcome Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With a holistic set of evidence-based tools and training we provide warriors with lifestyle changes needed for long-term healing. This rich community of fellow warriors provides the ongoing support needed to develop these skills into healing habits that affect the mind, body and soul.
Learn more at TheBattleWithin.org