Sunday, July 4, 2010

The War at Home

Each year thousands of soldiers are deployed to the middle east to fight our nation's war on terror. Each year, thousands of soldiers return home. Some soldiers have obvious wounds: missing limbs, burns, scars from bullet holes. What about the soldiers who have no obvious wounds? The soldiers who have all of their limbs but still feel as though they're missing a part of themselves. Are these soldiers ever really home? Is that soldier still the same person they were when they left for war? Did the horrible things they experienced stay behind on the battlefield? This doesn't seem to be the case. It is estimated that 1 in 3 veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars now suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is defined in the DSM-IV as follows:

"The essential features of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate (Criterion A1). The person's response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). The characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to the extreme trauma include persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event (Criterion B), persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (Criterion C), and persistent symptoms of increased arousal (Criterion D). The full symptom picture must be present for more than 1 month (Criterion E), and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. (Criterion F)."

With the military deploying soldiers every year, some on their second, third and fourth deployments, they are creating an army of soldiers suffering, fighting the war at home.

Coming across PTSD in Chapter 7 reminded me of an article I read last year about a soldier coming home from the middle east. The soldier in the article and I are the same age. Both of us were sitting in our classrooms as seniors in high school on September 11, 2001 and both deeply affected. This soldier would go off to fight the war at the age of 20; I would stay home and go on with my life as if nothing happened. This soldier, Jim, would go off to war and come back a different person. He says in the interview: "When it got really bad, I dumped 5 tons of sand in my basement to remind me of Afghanistan." While in his sandbox, Jim would hear noises coming from upstairs in his living room and thought they were mortars and mines. Six years later, at the age of 25, Jim struggled to leave his house and interact normally in social settings. On one occasion, Jim didn't recognize his wife and nearly killed her.

With another generation of soldiers now suffering from PTSD, much like the soldiers coming back from Vietnam decades before, the government is now recognizing the severity of the problem and looking for ways to help the soldiers that served their country. More drug trials are being commissioned and studies into different therapies to help soldiers cope are also being developed. Much still needs to be done to help the soldiers suffering with their invisible scars.

For more on Jim's story.


  1. Thank you for posting this video. I hope everyone watches it and shares it. PTSD is SUCH a urgent problem. What the women in this video said is SO SO true. The "leaders" in the chain of commands are not leaders and they DO punish soldiers by ostracizing them for expressing their realities and needs. My husband had PTSD and it infiltrates who they are as well as their relationships and the people around them. It ruins a person, marriages, relationships, life. It truly is a complex living hell that you wish was a nightmare. I know that's how I felt just dealing with my husband 4 years after he had gotten back from his deployments and he hadn't even experienced anything that bad compared to others. He had just so many people that knew die including his brother-in-law that he was close with. So, I can not imagine how it was for him or the soldiers who have experienced even more traumatic things. I have actually known several men that went to the war and every single one of them has PTSD. One even has a TBI (Tramatic Brain Injury) and the Army denied him. EVERYONE in this country needs to be educated about this and take it seriously because at this point it affects us all because we all know someone who has it. We need to know how to help these people as well as be educated enough to do something through voting, petitions etc.

  2. My step father was in Vietnam and he did say that he had some PTSD-like problems but he went to the VFW about a year after he got back. He said the best medicine for all of his problems was to just talk about what happened with other people who were there.