Major General David Blackledge is a very brave soldier. Not just because of his leadership and role in the Iraq war - a record that is admirable and exemplery. No, he is a brave soldier because he has come clean. On what? His psychiatric record, which he reveals involves extended counseling to deal with wartime trauma. Why is this such a big deal? Because we tend to see soldiers, especially senior level military personnel, as macho and unwilling to reveal their more sensitive and vulnerable sides. In this case - the soldier has "done good."
The major himself acknowledges the culture of silence that exists among the military, when it comes to mental health. Blackledge revealed that he came home with clear signs of post traumatic stress disorder and that he needed to get therapy. Veterans Day is Tuesday, and we need to honor the soldiers who currently serve or who recently served, and honor those who died for this country. I think a special honor goes to this senior official who may have helped so many others, by revealing his own mental state and his willingness to share the fact that he got the necessary treatment.
We still stigmatize people who admit to mental health problems. Sure, the wealthy can reveal that they are in therapy and make it sound so chic - but the reality is that the average person looks just a bit differently at people who acknowledge mental illness or even mental fragility. The average soldier is witnessing true horror during his stint in Iraq - even as we make progress. They come home forever changed by the tragedies they see. They need to feel comfortable seeking help and they need to believe there is hope in recovery. They also need to believe that it is not shameful to admit need and to get help. This two-star Army Reserve General has opened the door to hope, just a bit wider, for American soldiers on this Veteran's Day.
Published On: November 10, 2008