Many articulate bloggers have detailed why Valour-IT is such a special project. They've described it in emotional, practical, and patriotic terms. But today (thanks to Kat, The Middle Ground), I've found some scientific terms. While it's touching to think of wounded warriors being able to chat online with their loved ones or email guys still in the fight, right from their hospital beds, access to a computer can even affect the healing process.
Anyone (civilian or military) who suffers a traumatic injury or experience is going to have significant emotional issues to deal with, issues that will affect his or her ability to do what is needed to recover. In the short term:
Real and symbolic damage in the form of injury, separation or death of significant others, loss of property, destruction of social networks etc., result in feelings of loss and damage to esteem and identity.In the long term, if these "feelings of loss and damage to esteem and identity" are not addressed and mitigated, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop.
Now, stop and think about how many of the traumas, described in the quote above, an injured warfighter lying in a hospital stateside may have experienced.
- Injury: from moderate (i.e. burns, broken bones) to severe (i.e. loss of a body part or its function).
- Separation or death of significant others: including survivor's guilt, concerns about having reacted correctly in the fight, etc.
- Destruction of social networks: before the injury, almost every aspect of life was centered around the warfighter's military unit; the bonds were probably unlike anything he'd ever experienced, but now he is stateside and his unit is still "over there."
Talk about a double (triple!) whammy! The article goes on to discuss how these traumas can be coped with successfully:
Coping styles vary from action prone to reflective and analytical, from emotionally expressive to reticent. Clinically, response style is not as ultimately important as the degree to which coping efforts are successful as defined by the survivor's ability to:
--Continue task-oriented activity
--Sustain positive self value
--Maintain and enjoy rewarding interpersonal contacts
Look carefully at that list above. If you are a survivor of a multi-traumatic event (severe injuries, battle, death/injury of fellow warfighters, separation from your brothers, etc.), lying in a hospital bed, how could a computer help you cope successfully?
With access to a computer, you could:
- Continue task-oriented activity. This could be anything from maintaining a blog (as CPT Z does), to making sure your bills are paid, to planning that awesome vacation you're gonna have to celebrate your recovery.
- Regulate emotion. Of course, a great deal of that is personality-related. But being able to find things to amuse and encourage yourself when you are upset or discouraged is much harder to do when you are confined to bed. But with a laptop you could lose yourself in a down-loadable book, laugh yourself silly on the South Park website, or reach out to the friend who always lifts your spirits.
- Sustain positive self value. This is where the words like "independence" and "freedom" pop up. When you can do the kinds of things described in numbers 1 and 2 above, you are reclaiming a bit of the independence your injury tried to steal. You are taking care of yourself and your business. You have a least one corner of your life where you are in charge. That's huge.
- Maintain and enjoy rewarding interpersonal contacts . This is the other huge one. Ask anyone who's been through terrible trauma; they'll invariably mention at least one person who "made all the difference." But what happens if that person (the buddy who saved your life or the sweetheart who can't afford to drop everything and come to you) is on the other side of the world? That's where the email, IM, and even voice chat come into play. It's your lifeline.
Then someone places a voice-controlled laptop in front of you and turns it on. Your entire world shifts. You have a powerful tool for your emotional and physical recovery now open to you.
Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops: It's a whole lot more than just the "warm fuzzies."
I'll leave you with Rachel again:
This project will make a massive difference to the lives of wounded soldiers. Giving them access to the outside world, as well as the independence that voice-activated computers will bring, is such an honourable way to thank them for the sacrifices they have made for our well-being. [bolding added]Click here to donate. Done it once already? Do it again.
Update: minor editing for clarity