On the heels of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, we’re watching another war unfold, witnessing the devastating consequences war brings – from the mass exodus of refugees across Ukraine to war atrocities inflicted on soldiers and civilians. Our Veterans are watching the same headlines we are, but with a difference – memories and traumas from their service rise and wounds thought healed re-open.
On May 5, Joe Mantegna moderated a panel discussion, “The Consequences of War” at the Microsoft Lounge in Culver City. Joe, appointed the National Spokesperson for the U.S. Army Museum, also serves as an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, an Honorary Board Member for The NVF and has served as the host of the National Memorial Day Concert since 2006. Appearing with him were three notable Veterans:
Sebastian Junger, New York Times best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, Fire, A Death in Belmont, War, Freedom and Tribe,is a special correspondent for ABC News. An award-winning journalist, his documentary Restrepo was nominated for an Academy Award. The film, which chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, broke new ground in war reporting. He has since produced and directed three more documentaries about war and its aftermath.
MSgt. Roger Sparks, served as both a Recon Marine and an Air Force Pararescue man for over 25 years. He’s credited with having saved over 300 lives. In 2010, the voice calling for rescue changed three times, telling him the other callers had been wounded or killed. He parachuted in by moonlight to treat the wounded with limited medical supplies. His valor and expertise earned him a Silver Star. He returned home with deep wounds of his own. Co-founder of The Backbone Network, he’s a member of the GORUCK Cadre, a group of decorated combat Veterans of Special Operations whose service continues at home as they teach people how to overcome adversity as individuals and as teammates. Roger also serves on the advisory board of the NVF.
Shad Meshad, President and Founder of the NVF, has worked as a therapist for Veterans and as an advocate for Veterans’ rights for over 50 years beginning with his service in Vietnam, 1970.
Upon his return to the U.S., Shad founded and directed the Vietnam Veterans Re-Socialization Unit at the VA Hospital in Los Angeles. The first program of its kind, it focused on Vietnam Veterans’ readjustment problems. In 1978, Shad, among the first to study PTSD, worked to develop and lobby for the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Bill. In 1979, he founded the Vet Center Program, which now serves Veterans in more than 300 locations across the country.
In a literal sense, the “Consequences of War” brought the NVF into existence. It’s what our counselors have been dealing with for over 35 years on our Lifeline for Vets.Filmed before a live audience of special guests, the program will be re broadcast on www.thebackbonenetwork.com.
From the Guest Panelists
A journalist, Sebastian Junger went to Sarajevo in his 30s. “It was the most alive I’ve ever felt. But I came home depressed.”
“Things you saw imprint and rise unexpected later. Two men carrying a sagging mattress look like two men carrying a body. I didn’t see that coming.”
[A tribal society] “forces everyone to take moral ownership of the warrior’s debt. Community, a basic human need, used to be synonymous with life. We’re not that country anymore. Vets struggle.”
Roger Sparks spent 25 years in the military, half as a reconnaissance Marine before 9/11, the other half as a pararescue man.
“Combat was surreal; it fills you with grief and horror. The more surrealistic, the more isolated you become. You are forever implicated when a man dies in your arms.”
“Service to others is a way to express the grief. We heal ourselves by healing others.”
All three panelists agreed that the world needs to hear about these surreal experiences. The discussion will be re-broadcast on www.thebackbonenetwork.com. Watch for the announcement on www.nvf.org.
Thanks to Joe Mantegna for his thoughtful questions, and to Sebastian and Roger for sharing their wisdom and experience alongside Shad. Special thanks to Bobby and Sara Sheehan of Working Pictures for creating this special event.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.