Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soldiers are People Too

Yesterday morning, an F-15 Eagle Fighter crashed in rebel-held territory in Libya. The crew safely ejected and was rescued. Yesterday morning, NPR had some snippets from an Egyptian doctor who happened to be staying in the hotel where one of the crew members was brought. She was asked to treat him, but he pretty much only had bumps and bruises. The doctor commented that although the pilot was basically unhurt, he needed someone to sit with him because he was anxious and unsettled.

Our servicemen and women go through a lot of training, and they're very good at what they do. Pilots are trained on how to eject during a crash, and this crew clearly utilized that training. Anyone who flies in the military has considered the possibility that they're going to either be shot down or crash for some other reason. This isn't completely unforseen.

It pays to remember, however, that training for what to do and considering it ahead of time is very different than actually doing it. Servicepeople train so they can do the job, and so panic will not be added to the emotional stress of the situation. But you can't prevent people from feeling stress at all. The training these pilots had was like an emotional bullet proof vest -- it prevented this crash from completely overwhelming them. But people who get shot while wearing Kevlar will tell you that it still hurts, and can knock you down. It's not unreasonable for them to need a little help getting back up.

We tend to look at situations like this and think, "Well, that's their job," and, of course, it is. But even if it's your job to be in danger, there are times that are just plain scary, regardless. You might be prepared for them. You might handle them just right. But you're going to feel it when you're done. This might be a good time to remember that the men and women who serve in the military are still, first and foremost, people.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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