Memorial Day Reflections || The Ancient Greeks Helping Vets with PTSD

Ajax Defending Greek Ships Against Trojans

The Greeks didn’t call it PTSD. But they understood that war brought trauma (from the Greek word meaning “wound”), which left some warriors with a “thousand-yard stare,” a phrase used by Sophocles, long after they returned home. Advocates and the military itself have found that ancient myths and stories like “Ajax” can help veterans and active-duty soldiers cope with the overwhelming psychological stress that the country’s longest war has put on its relatively small volunteer force.

The VA estimates that about 1,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed each week with PTSD, and another 800 with depression. Many more of the 2.5 million men and women who have been deployed in the war thus far likely suffer from these psychological conditions but remain undiagnosed, a burden that will persist far beyond the planned troop drawdown from Afghanistan at the end of this year.

Not having a baby-sitter meant that for a good 4 years I would spend my afternoons and evenings at the Central Library. Until my parents picked me up, I read voraciously, devouring the entire section on Greek Myth. It opened up an inner dialogue that has become vital in my life for helping me over come obstacles.

I came across a yahoo article which talked about Michael Meade myth-filled retreats for veterans called “Voices of Veterans.” He said some impactful things that gave me cause for reflection. In his retreats “he uses ancient stories from Ireland, Greece, India and other cultures to prod veterans into unloading their experiences and making sense of them over four-day retreats on the West Coast. Veterans in Meade’s program also sing ancient warrior chants together, take part in a “forgiveness” ceremony, and write and recite poetry. He believes that many ancient cultures did a better job of formally welcoming returning warriors home and helping to collectively shoulder some of their burdens.”

I believe it was Joseph Campbell who said that: Dreams are a private Myth and Myths are the public dream. What I like about that sentence is that its alludes to the fact that myth like dreams are a symbolic language that can connect us to our deeper selves personally and societally.

What struck me was Meade’s saying that: “Everyone wants to tell their story,” Meade said. “Even the most wounded people, given the chance, want to tell the story of that wound. A wound is like a mouth.” Our culture has an odd relationship with suffering, one that I want to explore more in depth later. Suffice it to say how many of us reading this have secret hurts and pains that we would love to get out but do not? The other sentence that struck me was this one: Some scholars believe all of Western literature developed from the need to tell the stories of returning soldiers.


If you are interested  here is the article, be sure to check out some of the Vet’s Stories.

Supplemental Info

Campbell outlined four functions of myth. Myths laid the foundation for many social interactions that strengthens one’s inner connection, as well as their connection to their family elders, friends …Community at large really. There is a correlation between the relegation of myth to realm of the make believe and the fictitious I feel and many of the lost youth or society seems to mass produce.

  1. Metaphysical – Myth awakens and supports a sense of awe before the mystery of being. It reconciles consciousness to the preconditions of its own existence. Myth induces a realization that behind the surface phenomenology of the world, there is a transcendent mystery source. 
  2. Cosmological – deals with the image of the world that is the focus of science. This function shows the shape of the universe, but in such a way that the mystery still comes through.
  3. Sociological – Myth supports and validates the specific moral order of the society out of which it arose. Particular life-customs of this social dimension, such as ethical laws and social roles, evolve dramatically.
  4. Psychological – The myths show how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. It is this pedagogical function of mythology that carries the individual through the various stages and crises of life, from childhood dependency, to the responsibilities of maturity, to the reflection of old age, and finally, to death.

This Memorial Day Remember We’ve Been Screwing Veterans Over for at Least a Century


“On this Memorial Day weekend eve, we can finally admit that America has had for over 200 years a great bipartisan
tradition of honoring those who have fought for our freedom by fucking them over once they give their guns back”

I am against war, unless it is a way to eradicate a disease.  However I feel as we seem at this stage to be unable to refrain from killing each other, it is of the utmost importance that we take care of our veterans. Unfortunately that is not our policy. I knew the VA hospital sucked because I had met over the year many former serviceman who had shared with me their gripes. So I was enthused when John Stewart took on the task last night of talking about how we as a nation mistreat our veterans. Here are some salient quotes to remember as we go off to family barbecues and picnics.

  • As traditions go, mistreating our veterans is a fully bipartisan endeavor,” Stewart said, starting with a 1988 Washington Post article that reported on the Veterans Administration directing researchers to under-report the number of VA hospitals with high mortality rates.
  • Stewart also covered the failure of the Reagan administration to admit federal liability for use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and a 1932 march on Washington by World War I veterans demanding the bonuses they’d been promised 15 years earlier. Said the U.S. government: Would you accept that bonus in the form of tear gas and an escort of tanks?” Stewart said over film footage of the veterans being pushed from the streets.
  • Skipping back to the Revolutionary War, Stewart talked about a group of former soldiers who took Congress hostage in 1783 over promised pensions they didn’t receive. The leaders of the group were sentenced to death, but those sentences were later commuted.

“Let’s pretend that this current VA crisis is an anomaly created by one unusually callous and ineffective president,” Stewart said. “Or … we can finally admit that America has had for over 200 years a great bipartisan tradition of honoring those who have fought for our freedom by [expletive] them over once they give their guns back.”

Random Facts


FACT: 43% of Homeless Males Over 25 are Veterans!

FACT:  If military service were not a causal factor in veteran homelessness, only 27% of homeless would be veterans!