Editor’s Note: A Soldier’s Heart

| January / February 2008

A slight, soft-spoken leftist who has worked with survivors of war for more than 30 years stands center stage in an auditorium full of environmentalists who have gathered north of San Francisco on a misty October weekend to dream of peace.

Choking back tears, he talks about the need to recast post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an affliction of the soul. He explains why veterans, too often abandoned by a country they risked everything to honor, wander our streets, fill our shelters, and take their own lives. About how, even after the physical wounds are treated, “oceans of pain” linger just beneath the surface, calling out for exorcism.

The room’s self-appointed conscience is camped out by the back entrance, half-listening, waiting for a pause so she can start chanting: “No more war. No more war.” As if we’re all standing on a picket line in Crawford, Texas. As if there’s anyone in this crowd of nearly 2,000 who doesn’t think the occupation of Iraq is a travesty and the Bush administration a chamber of horrors.

In retrospect, I see that it was inevitable.

In the midst of his presentation at the 18th annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California, author and psychotherapist Ed Tick, founder and director of Soldier’s Heart: A Veterans’ Safe Return Initiative, was interrupted by a tone-deaf war protester.

Mercifully, no one joined in—in large part because the stunt was so clumsy, so insensitive. Tick handled the whole thing with grace (“We’re working on it,” he said with a smile) and forged on with his talk about “soldier’s heart,” a phrase coined during the Civil War to describe the psychological pain that afflicted an untold number of survivors.