Thursday, October 20, 2005

Veterans & PTSD

Found at original article from USA Today.

1 In 4 Iraq Vets Ailing On Return
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment, according to the Pentagon's first detailed screening of servicemembers leaving a war zone. (Related: Troops screened as never before)

Almost 1,700 servicemembers returning from the war this year said they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. More than 250 said they had such thoughts "a lot." Nearly 20,000 reported nightmares or unwanted war recollections; more than 3,700 said they had concerns that they might "hurt or lose control" with someone else....

Rambo syndrome, referring to the first movie not the horrid sequels, is the extreme almost satirical end of this mental trauma. Returning vets feel a sense of dislocation with civilian life. They may feel unappreciated, undervalued, and antagonistic by the civilians around them. I have met several Vietnam vets who, as my dad says, are still in Saigon. It took me several years to separate that statement from my immature definition that these men were crazy.

The paradigm of war creates a feeling and belief that all is conflict, quite simply because it is. When will the next attack come? How many enemies will there be? Is this person across the street going to try and kill me? These are questions that can only be asked when death is an ever present danger in your life, like on the streets and roads of Vietnam and Iraq.

When a vet returned from "The 'Nam", or Iraq known as "The Suck", the bright lights and noise of everyday life have been transformed into the potential warning signs of impending attack. Their reactions to, what non-vets, perceive as normal stimuli may elicit a completely, and to a non-vets perception, irrational response.

I've seen vets dive under tables on the Fourth of July, sleep like they are holding a rifle, or call in reports to HQ; thirty years AFTER they left the war zone. The training and then retraining that broke down their pre-military lives and rebuilt them into soldiers NEVER disappears. It can be suppressed but will always remain the monster locked in the closet of their minds.

They deserve or respect, understanding, and all the support and help we and our government can provide. Unfortunately history shows us that many of them will fall through the cracks. They become the crazy guy on the corner or in the subway. People will ignore them, step over them while the government treats them like a bastard child that never lived up to expectations. They are NOT FAILURES! They are the inevitable result of taking young men and women and tossing them into a situation that they cannot control, forcing them to kill, see the results of that killing, and then saying your home now good luck and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.


Of servicemembers returning from the Iraq war this year:

47% saw someone wounded or killed, or saw a dead body.
14% had an experience that left them easily startled.
6% wanted help for stress, emotional, alcohol or family problems.
2% had thoughts of hurting someone or losing control.
1% had thoughts that they might be better off dead or could hurt themselves.

Source: 193,131 Defense Department Post-Deployment Health Assessments from January through August.

For more information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Iraq War go to the National Center For PTSD.

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