PTSD Combat is no longer being updated.

Find Ilona blogging at Magyar Etimológia and Etymartist.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One Student's Plea: Troops Deserve Our Help

I just came across this article by NIU's Northern Star opinion columnist Henry Kraemer. It describes how his life was personally touched by the Iraq war, as he watched a distant cousin ship off to Iraq -- only to return home suffering with PTSD and eventually giving up on life and choosing suicide. The author's position of writing for a university newspaper provides an excellent opportunity at PTSD education -- and Mr. Kraemer takes it.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Although I haven't quoted from the entire piece, I've clipped a substantial passage and hope the author agrees it a valid exercise in this case:

Since Jamie died, I've been thinking about the soldiers. According to CNN, there are about 132,000 American soldiers stationed in Iraq right now. That's five times more than the entire student body of NIU. A lot of them are our age. Most of them are willing to lay their lives on the line every day. Many of them do.

The war has been hard on a lot of them. The U.S. Department of Defense reports that 2,384 have died so far, and more than 17,000 have been wounded. Most of us know these figures - the death toll is on the news at least every week - but there is a hidden toll taken on soldiers. It may be the cause of many post-war suicides, and it may have killed Jamie. Post-traumatic stress disorder is affecting soldiers in a tremendous way.

Post-traumatic stress was identified first after the Vietnam War to describe the effects of battle on returning soldiers. The symptoms are seemingly endless: anxiety, depression, nightmares, irritability and flashbacks to name a few.

The American Medical Association surveyed 222,620 Army soldiers and Marines on leave from Iraq and found more than 21,000 of them suffer from post-traumatic stress. The study did not account for the 132,000 serving now, but the percentage is probably the same, if not greater. More soldiers may suffer from the disorder than report it. Many soldiers see it as a sign of weakness and therefore claim to have nothing wrong with them.

The military has tried to identify PTSD sufferers earlier than ever before. Leaders probably learned the lesson after Vietnam, when countless veterans came back emotionally shattered. There are now on-site therapy sessions held in combat zones - but these sessions do little to help the soldiers beyond diagnosing them. The damage has already been done.

PTSD is hitting soldiers in very much the same way it did in Vietnam. Then and now, the soldiers don't know friend from foe. This breeds a great deal of fear and anger. Lt. Col. Alan Peterson, an Air Force psychologist, told the New York Times of the devastation caused by ambiguous urban combat.

"These guys go out in convoys, and boom: the first vehicle gets hit, their best friend dies and now they're seeing life flash before them and get a surge of adrenaline and want to do something," Peterson said. "But often there's nothing they can do. There's no enemy there. ... They wish they could act out on this adrenaline rush and do what they were trained to do but can't."

Post-traumatic stress is ghostly and incessant, much like the soldiers' human enemies. Sufferers are torn apart by it, but military mores keep many of them from getting help. The military is commendably doing much to help them. But the responsibility also falls to us, the families they return to.

Our soldiers come home shaken. They come home hurt and lonely.

We can show them their home is a safe place. We can let them know what they're feeling is perfectly natural and encourage them to get help. If any of your friends or family show signs of PTSD, refer them to local veterans centers or to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We all respect their service. Now they deserve our help.

I'd like to thank the Northern Star's Henry Kraemer (email him if you'd like to as well) for reaching out to do what he can to help educate Northern Illinois University's student body on the plight of our returning soldiers. His effort will make it easier for others to understand they have an important role to play in assisting the returning veteran's reintegration back into civilian life.

Army: 83 suicides in 2005, 67 in 2004
Do's and Don'ts List for Interactions with Returning Troops

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
Want to stay connected? You can subscribe to PTSD Combat via Feedburner or follow Ilona on Twitter.
Later/Newer Posts Previous/Older Posts Return Home

2011: Jan Feb
2010: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2009: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2008: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2007: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2006: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2005: Sept Oct Nov Dec

Legal Notice

The information presented on this web site is based on news reports, medical and government documents, and personal analysis. It does NOT represent therapeutic prescription or recommendation. For specific advice and information, consult your health care provider.

Comments at PTSD Combat do not necessarily represent the editor's views. Illegal or inappropriate material will be removed when brought to our attention. The existence of such does not reflect an endorsement.

This site contains at times large portions of copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This material is used for educational purposes, to forward understanding of issues that concern veterans and military families. In accordance with U.S. Copyright Law Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. More information.