Martin Luther King once remarked, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home.” In many ways, that awful conflict left a sort of social damage not seen in America since the Civil War, and the soldiers who returned were changed forever. Yet this was not the first conflict to send send men home with broken minds. The horrors of war are embedded in the memories of many veterans, and the cost they must pay is something hardly covered or compensated by their nation. People used to call it shell shock, combat fatigue, and “lack of moral fiber”. We know it today as post-traumatic stress disorder. Treatment requires more than prescriptions: treatment requires compassion and faith.
I will not pretend to describe what soldiers must experience in combat, for I have no such experience. But I have no faith in those who speak of helping soldiers without the commitment of effective resources on their behalf. PTSD is a major problem in the Armed Forces and for thousands of discharged personnel. Veterans Affairs explains the disorder to those who visit their page on PTSD:
If you are in the military, you may have seen combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. You may have been shot at, seen a buddy shot, or seen death. These are types of events that can lead to PTSD.
Experts think PTSD occurs:
In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in 11-20 Veterans out of 100.
In as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Veterans out of 100.
In about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans.
If you are a Veteran and require assistance, click on the link above or all the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255.
A friend recently showed me this TedX Correctional Facility Talk video from Andrew Chambers, whose trauma in Operation Iraqi Freedom forced him down a violent path at home. His final words were true enough, for all veterans are deserving of our friendship and compassion: “Find a veteran and listen to his story.”