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What to Say to Your Soldier or Veteran Who Confess to You Their Sins of War

All Posts  November 18 2008
 — By Scott Lee

By listening without judgment and negativity you are giving your soldier something extremely valuable that they need. It may seem insignificant to you, but to them they are pouring out their soul to you and by doing so you can help them reclaim a lost self forgotten on the battlefield.

By living through combat we come back completely different people than the one who left home. Mostly we do not see this or choose to remain in denial because if we can pretend to be who we were then we might not have to face who we became.

Your soldier has chosen to look into there soul and share this with you. When they delve into this abyss they experience it for the first time as well as you. In combat we have to compartmentalize all of the horrors of war due to our inability to process it, to do otherwise would get us killed.

By listening and giving them comfort they can begin to regain that part of the mind that has been ravaged by war. They are not proud of the things they will share with you, do not tell them that you are proud of them in these moments for this is a judgment. Deep down they know it is not their fault, this to is a judgment.

They may blame themselves, guilt of surviving and leaving your battle buddy behind is a crippling cycle of incrimination and damnation.

Tell them things that a mother would tell her son or daughter when he or she comes running home and crying. There, there. It’s ok, it’s ok. I am here for you. I love you. I am glad you made it home, etc. Also encouraging words or phrases; Uh huh, yeah, ok, go on, I’m listening, etc can help encourage him or her to go on. Also, silence can be an effective communicator of interest in hearing him or her talk.

Remember, this is more about him or her. Let them lead the way and do not push them into talking when they would not be comfortable.

I hope this helped, if you want to understand why they do the things they do or what may be going on in their mind; browse my blog, I have poured my heart out in it and think that it closely resembles what many combat veterans think and feel.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Nice article. I stumbled across it during a Google search. My husband is a combat vet who served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and who suffers with PTSD.

    I wrote a song (When Your Soldier Comes Back Home) aimed at the family and friends of those vets who return from war with PTSD and it is available as a FREE download to anyone who wants it.

    It can be heard at either my MySpace page or my website. I will post both locations below in the event you or your readers might want to hear it.


    (must navigate to the mp3 download section on the “My Music Store” page of my website to find the free download)

    I don’t make any money from this song.
    I just want it to be heard by anyone who has someone being affected by PTSD.

  2. My boyfriend of 6 months poured his heart out to me about his first deployment to Afghanistan back in 2001. It was a very emotional conversation and I just held hi close and listened to every thing he said. I’ve never felt so helpless before listening to his guilt and his pain. He was deployed to Iraq almost a week ago and I have no idea what to say to him while he’s over there. I know not to ask questions abou the situation but is there anything comforting I can say?

    • By writing him he will know that you support him, this may seem insignificant to his situation, but has an enormous benefit to his morale.

      Your sense of helplessness was magnified due to his emotional outpouring, by being present with him you did everything you could do in that moment and the only action needed.

      By being present when you write you will convey your being to him, this can invigorate his day and bring him hope. Write about your day, tell him the funny thing that happened at work or the silly thought you had. Tell him about that you had your hair cut and styled or that you had a bad hair day.

      The most mundane things to you will be the most significant to him, give him a window into your world.

  3. Your advice was exactly what I was looking for, as I have been at a loss as to what to tell my boyfriend who’s fighting the war in Afghanistan for the past year. Aside from having to deal with extreme negatives of the war, he’s got high blood pressure, which he said is driving him crazy! I try to show him positive support; be there for him, reiterate to him that this will all pass, I’m here for him, no matter what. We were able to joke with each before. But now, he’s more serious….said he’s hardly sleeping , his feelings are getting numb, can’t tell right from wrong and he doesn’t care anymore….. He said I’m the only thing that keeps him from going off the deep end!! I’m so afraid for him and need to know if there’s anything more I can do or say that would help keep him from his destructive and negative thoughts. Please help!!!

  4. I would tell him to call the local VA seek immediate help. Left click here to find services near you Veteran Services.

    For you I would like to say that you will not be able to stop him from doing anything destructive to you, himself or others. When he goes to the place in his mind that is beyond his environment and into the heat of rage. Get out of his way and do not try to stop him this could possibly inflame him further. Find others to share with and to not let his world consume yours. Follow this link on my blog to find resources for yourself and your veteran.

    • ” Find others to share with and to not let his world consume yours. Follow this link on my blog to find resources for yourself and your veteran.” That link to “your blog” above takes you to someplace else- for a CPA or something.

  5. How can I help my son (Iraq Veteran – with PTSD) when no matter what I say it doesn’t work. I try to talk, he ignores me. I do things for him, he doesn’t care. I don’t talk to him, he doesn’t come around. He constantly says he doesn’t care about anything. He can’t sleep. Friends don’t understand him – some aren’t going to “put up” with him anymore. He won’t talk to anyone, won’t reason, can’t concentrate, won’t keep appointments at the VA…the list is endless. He is so alone…I’m scared for him and worried sick. I can’t stand to see him live like this…how do I help him?

    • Learn about the available resources, learn how to be there for your veteran without triggering their emotional states, learn how to talk to him on his terms. This can bridge the gap eventually, but it will take time. Before we left for combat we were told everything would be the same when we got back. Not so, everything changed in ways unimaginable for some. We will take time in coming home, I am 20 years from my war and still journey to get home.

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