Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wounded Warriors

Before you read any farther, this post contains some spoilers for last week's episode of Arrow, “Suicidal Tendencies.” I won't give away any major plot points for story arc that has been going through the current season, but I will speak about some of the plots in this particular episode.

So if you don't want to know what happens in this episode, be warned now: SPOILER ALERT!

But rather than starting at the beginning of the episode, I'm going to start at the end. At the close of the episode, David Ramsey, the actor for John Diggle in the series, made a public service announcement about the Wounded Warrior Project, which you can watch here:

David Ramsey makes a public service announcement about
the Wounded Warrior Project
As Ramsey said, the Wounded Warrior Project helps veterans who may bear not only physical wounds, but emotional or psychological wounds as well. To learn more, you can visit their website:

For those that have followed the last season of Arrow, as the title suggests, last week's episode featured the return of the Suicide Squad. Lyla, as the squad's leader, is in charge of the mission. As she was pulled in from her honeymoon for the mission, she is joined by her newlywed husband, Diggle, in addition to regular members of the squad, Cupid and Deadshot (a.k.a. Floyd Lawton).

Diggle, Deadshot, Lyla and Cupid working on a mission as
the Suicide Squad
Most episodes of Arrow show flashbacks of Oliver's time on the island (and other places he went during his five years away from home), but this week's episode shows flashbacks of Deadshot's life. Though showing flashbacks for a villain has been done on Arrow before (just a few weeks ago, we saw Malcom Merlyn's origin story), I found this particular origin story intriguing.

The first flashback shows Floyd Lawton returning home to his wife and young daughter after spending time serving as a soldier in combat. We can see that he loves his wife and daughter, and that he had a happy family life before he left, and they seem to be on track to return to a normal life together.

Floyd Lawton and his wife

Lawton's daughter, Zoe
But as time goes on, it becomes apparent that even though Lawton doesn't carry any physical wounds from the time he was deployed, he does carry psychological and emotional wounds, showing signs of depression, anxiety and PTSD. He isn't able to hold down a job or socialize, and he frequently loses his temper with his daughter and wife. His wife pleads with him to get help, but at one point when he pulls a gun on her, she calls the police and he is arrested.

Once in jail, being prevented from contacting his wife or daughter due to a restraining order and having lost hold of everything he held dear, he is offered the chance to be a mercenary assassin. Having nothing else to live for, and feeling that killing is the only thing he's good at any more, he accepts, and soon takes on the code name, "Deadshot."

Floyd Lawton; Code Name: Deadshot
Even though Deadshot has repeatedly been shown to be a ruthless cold-blooded killer, knowing where he came from humanizes him.

In the main story line, as the Suicide Squad carries out their mission, Deadshot comes to remember the family he still loves. He is inspired by Lyla and Diggle's determination to make things work in spite of their challenges. And when the squad gets into a situation where they would all seem to be facing certain death, he sacrifices himself to give Lyla and Diggle the chance to have what he had lost, and in a small way redeems himself. His last action is looking at a picture of him with his wife and daughter that he has carried with him over the years.

Although Deadshot's example and the choices he makes are obviously more extreme than is the case for soldiers returning home from combat, it does show the challenges of adapting back to normal life that many of those who have been in combat face. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions are very real things that many experience.

In the past, very little help was available, as these seemingly invisible medical conditions weren't understood. Rather than a very real medical condition, those that suffered from non-visible wounds were often seen as having character flaws. In the past, the prevailing thoughts were that if they couldn't get over what they experienced, then they only had themselves to blame.

Fortunately, understanding of medicine and psychology have progressed over the years, and there are far more resources for veterans than there once were. Some still do slip through the cracks; some refuse to accept help. But thanks to organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project, more are getting the help, support and treatment that they need.

Like Deadshot, some of those returning from combat believe that either because of what happened to them, or because they can't get better on their own, that they are flawed, and they are at fault, as that was what many have been taught all their lives. Fortunately, that message is starting to change.

Though I have never served in the military myself, I hold tremendous respect for those who have, especially for those who have placed their lives on the line in serving their country and protecting our freedom. In the words of David Ramsey, “they've had our backs, now it's time we have theirs,” and give back to the brave men and women who have served.

To find out ways you can give back to those who have served and their families, visit

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