VOICES: Are there similarities in witnessing a traumatic sports injury and a military casualty?

We saw it happen, on national TV or, for more than 63,000 fans, with their own eyes in person. He was a healthy young man carrying out his duties as a professional in his chosen career. He had worked hard, spending long, arduous hours preparing to do his best, to be a strong team member. He was a son, a family member and a community asset. But on this particular day, at this particular time, something went very wrong.

An unbelievable tragedy occurred that changed his and his teammates’ lives forever. And it went beyond to nearly anyone who witnessed him falling unconscious, the CPR, the ambulance moving him from the field of play to the hospital. It has even led to an examination of the entire culture of his industry. Thoughts, prayers and well wishes have poured in from across the country and beyond.

This is right. This is what good people do, coming together to support a fallen warrior. Everyone benefits when a group of people come together to support a worthy cause. It appears that the prayers and support have aided in his remarkable recovery. Since his injury, there has been an outpouring of support for his charity Chasing M’s Foundation. In his recent video interview Damar said, “This is just the beginning of the impact that I wanted to have on the world,” Hamlin said in closing. “And with God’s guidance, I will continue to do wonderful and great things. I couldn’t do this without any of the support and the love.”

But we should ask: Are there similarities between what we witnessed on Monday night, Jan. 2, at 8:17 and what has happened on multiple days and nights in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq or Afghanistan where warriors carrying out their professional duties for a common cause are met with tragic, traumatic fates with devastating consequences. The men and women of the United States military have been casualties of or witnesses to hundreds of thousands of horrific situations while defending our country in their line of duty. Seldom has there been such an outpouring of prayers and concern for those who truly put their life on the line as we witnessed since the night of Jan. 2.

Maybe we need to reconsider how we approach and reckon with these young men and women warriors who don’t get to choose to stop the game and go to the locker room.

Many times they are given little time to digest what they just witnessed on their field — the battlefield. Many of these fallen warriors never come home or, if they do, the physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual damage is immeasurable.

Again, this is not an indictment on the reaction of the NFL, his team, or country or beyond. The outpouring of prayers, love and concern shown to Damar Hamlin since his unbelievable tragedy is heartwarming and encouraging and well deserved. Although the battle tragedies of our young military service men and women are not often witnessed by a national TV audience, is it possible that we as a nation can come together with a similar response to assist them with their recovery?

Mark Curtis has been a Dayton area Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist for 35 years. He is a Vietnam Era Veteran currently volunteering with the Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court and The Victory Project.

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