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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Face,family, story, not a statistic

A very young man was buried today.

Too young to know dirt and the box.

Joshua J. Ehlers was buried today in a very small town, Albert City, in Iowa. He was the son of Betty and Steve Ehlers and the wife of Lauren, father of Izzy and Jamie. He was the grandson of Doris Skog. He was the brother of Bethany and Caleb and Andrew and Britta and Madison. He was an uncle, a cousin to our cousins, a friend, and a soldier.

Sgt. Joshua Ehlers took his own life a week ago near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

His family is devastated.

Joshua suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He suffered. He went to war, came home, and suffered more.

His family is devastated. He is too young to be locked beyond time, beyond us, beyond his family, in ground.

We are told that one soldier commits suicide every single day. Every day one post-Iraqi and post-Afghani veteran kills him or herself. Every day. One dies.

We hear the statistics but not the stories. Joshua's mother is distraught. His father, his wife, his daughters -- when they become old enough to understand, his siblings. His grandmother. In little stories across this country, ground is opened and dirt is poured. It is a sour sacrament.

We hear the statistics and say, "something must be done," but we are clueless.

There are treatments for PTSD. Not enough soldiers have access to them. Or choose them.

I had such a treatment today. My war was only a few miles from here, from home. The IED's that blew up were quieter, but deadly. My wounds are hidden too.

Except to my family. And my therapist. This afternoon I held small electronic chargers in my hands and felt the bilateral pulses in my palms, while I relived a part of my trauma. I sobbed and felt the same sensations in my body as I had when the trauma occurred. An hour later, some small measure of healing had occurred.

It will be a long time before my trauma is healed. And I cannot say that this approach, called EMDR, works for everyone. Trauma is a tricky fox that shows itself in different guises and has manifest disguises. It does not give up easily. It is a brain injury. I don't know if it could help even those who can't afford treatment. I feel very lucky. But not everyone with PTSD is able to choose the various therapies available.

And not all of them work quickly enough to alleviate the excruciating pain that our veterans bring home. I don't know if Joshua was in therapy or had been treated for PTSD.

I just know that he was family. A face, a story, a father, a son, a brother, a husband, a guy who just last week was mugging for the camera with his young daughters, his wife, and two overgrown make-believe animals at a theme park. He was a grandson to a sweet woman who makes the best cinnamon buns in America. And now he's gone. All but memory.

Such a tragedy. A human one. An Albert City tragedy. A family tragedy. A very sad sad loss.

Peace to the memory of this bright young man.

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