The cost of war by Cerena Johnson, 3/28/2007
Veterans for Peace hosted a day of reflection and education on war trauma Tuesday in Humboldt State University’s Kate Buchanan Room.
The daylong conference, titled “Human Trauma: Examining Costs of War,” featured a film screening, panel discussions and live music. Health care professionals and veterans spoke about the health impacts of war and the different experiences both society and the individual face as a result of war.
Gordon Anderson, a member of Veterans for Peace and an organizer of the event, said the conference was not only geared toward veterans, but families and the public as well.
“A large number of people are returning from this so-called war. They are damaged in ways we cannot see. We are trying to help people become aware that this is not a small issue,” Anderson said.
The conference was largely focused on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, a common problem for those recently in combat or for anyone who has had a life-threatening or traumatic experience.
Dr. Robert Gould, an associate pathologist at Kaiser Hospital in San Jose and president of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, traced the history of nuclear war beginning with the dropping of bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Gould said many of the health consequences of war are issues that remain with society today, including economic and environmental destruction and psychological effects.
Veterans from various wars shared their experiences, and told how loved ones were affected upon their return to the United States.
Brian Willson, a Vietnam veteran and panel speaker, recalled his time spent as a section leader in the Air Force.
“One of the things I’ve had to really process is I feel like I should not have gone to Vietnam. It just didn’t feel right,” Willson said.
Willson experienced a flashback 12 years after he returned, in which he was stepping over the bodies of civilians who had been burnt by napalm; many of them were children.
“In my mind and in my heart, we were basically murdering innocent civilians in these villages,” he said.
Bill Thompson, a founding member of Veterans for Peace in Humboldt County and a veteran, said Veterans for Peace has grown tremendously as a group and a resource for veterans.
“People need to hear the stories,” he said. “I was silent for 40 years.”