Improvised explosive devices on the streets of Baghdad. Suicide bombers in Kabul. Green on blue attacks at training bases. The loss of friends to suicide at home. Bombings and mass shootings by terrorists, the mentally deranged, and the politically corrupt. All create trauma. All create reaction.
After years of such direct and indirect trauma, many military members develop emotional calluses to the world around them. It’s not a complete loss of feeling…it’s a shift of the senses where traumatic events are made duller by virtue of a tough, emotional callus.
While such an emotional callus may reduce personal compassion, it also decreases the likelihood of an overreaction to traumatic events. When the bombs went off less than a quarter-mile away from a Boston Marathon finish, my response was not indignant anger. Instead, I was filled with a logical, sad regret that events I had encountered in war had followed me home.
Our greatest danger – to ourselves and the world – is overreaction. We are a pendulum swinging faster and faster, pushed by the immediacy of new-felt trauma. As a soldier whose calluses have saved me physically and emotionally, I wish the same logical callousness on our society…and national policy.