by Michael Fay
Active duty military and veterans have low expectations of civilians getting it. Too much Hollywood, video games and time at the mall stand between us and them. The civilian-military divide is well-documented, the stereotypes maintaining it well-entrenched. Those who’ve lived the military experience, whether deployed to war or stateside in garrison, know it’s a life neither Hollywood, nor World of Warcraft, can remotely capture. Years are devoted to training for war, followed by years engaged in it. Through it all, GIs gripe about it, revel in it and struggle with its aftershocks. What’s an intimate companion of a few, is a distant relative of the many. Most Americans easily express sympathy for military service with thankful handshakes in airports or bumper stickers, but few will ever devote the energy to develop what’s really needed: empathy.
There is one civilian who has devoted the time, effort – and yes, risk – to move beyond the stereotypes about what it means to serve, and in doing so has written a moving and insightful book on the challenges and rewards of contemporary military life. In The Honor Was Mine: A Look Inside the Struggles of Military Veterans, author and therapist Elizabeth Heaney, MA, LPC, walks us through her personal journey from vaguely sympathetic outsider to deeply empathetic insider.