“I have never seen a single story book that tells how everyone feels.” Bob Dylan said in 1963. On this Veterans Day, we are not involved in a major war for the first time in almost 20 years. We should give thanks. But we also need to ensure that we internalize what the veterans who live and work among us have experienced and continue to experience.
It’s unfortunate that we haven’t done what Iraq War veteran Phil Klay urged us to do seven years ago – use our experiences of suffering to feel what the military went through. We have all suffered in our own lives. Our trauma pools may not be as deep or as wide as those of veterans who endured the pain of soldiers and civilians injured or killed in war. But, as Klay points out, we can imagine and extrapolate from our own suffering to get a feel for what the veterans went through. If we take into account what veterans say and how they say it, we can develop empathy through our common humanity. To deny that we can understand what they went through is to selfishly isolate ourselves from their suffering.