September 29, 2008

PTSD, Combat and the Guilt of a Nation Mediated by the Media's Lip Service

I had recently posted an article over at A Soldier's Perspective that I had originally posted here on September 6, 2008 about the attachments that soldiers develop during combat. A commenter informed me of her belief that our soldiers were getting the proper help with psychological issues and addressing PTSD, that all they had to do was ask. It seems as thought she is trying to assuage her conscious and justify her beliefs that all will done to help our soldiers and veterans.

Here is her comment,
I agree that combat experience will bring soldiers together. These soldiers will often share things and feel an attachment like none that they have probably experienced in their life. However, the military does not view PTSD as a weakness and goes a long way trying to identify soldiers that have problems and get them the necessary help to allow them to continue to soldier or become responsible productive citizens. The choice to become a citizen or continue to soldier on is the soldier's choice. Initially the Army was not prepared to deal with PTSD or with traumatic brain injuries. Recently that has changed. You cannot sign into a new unit or Army School without going through medical screening and part of that screening is psychological screening. This screening is done in private so that soldiers can feel free to disclose any concerns without feeling ashamed. PTSD is not a weakness but an illness like any other condition you can develop over time. Additionally, the band of brothers that develop in combat owe it to each other to ensure that they are looking out for one another. Part of that is making sure any brother in arms receive treatment if you think they might have a problem. As brothers, you have to make sure your brothers are not suffering needlessly. If a brother is having trouble make sure we get him the treatment he needs and not allow him to try to grit it out. You can get help in private and not have your career affected. The Army is doing a better job of providing help we just have to make sure those who need it get it. Take care of each other and be safe. This is my own opinion and does not represent the Army's point of view.
to which I commented,
To the Common Masses,

Are you a mental health provider in the military, the VA or in civilian world? It sounds as if you have bought into the media portrayal that everything that can be done has become the norm. I know that the military has become more aware of problems associated with psychological trauma and have begun to implement some changes. But not on the scale of making significant changes in the soldiers and families lives that have been impacted by psychological trauma. Do you really think that our soldiers have a choice in becoming a citizen or soldiering on? This is the EXACT kind of thinking that alienates and stigmatizes our soldiers and veterans. "Hey you are the one who signed up for this! Suck it up soldier and drive on!"

This is EXACTLY what we face as a nation in overcoming PTSD and enriching our soldiers and veterans lives, people who believe in the benevolence of our nation to help the "heroes of war" (those of us who survive war do not consider ourselves a hero, just lucky. By calling us heroes all we can think about are the ones who did not make it home). The trouble becomes perfectly clear to the veteran or soldier who faces the daunting task of recovery from PTSD when they seek help. The nation does not dispense much needed education and treatment of PTSD, the institutions of bureaucracy weigh the task of defending the budget verses helping "those bastards who do not deserve help, suck it solider!" I can still see the look of disbelief on the VA therapists faces when I tried to get help, many times did I stare into that penetrating mask of "you are lying to get benefits" before I could get through the rigorous process of getting a diagnosis of PTSD which you need to receive treatment. Most of the times I was suicidal or homicidal when I was on the other end of the scorn and skepticism of the VA doctors, nurses, therapists and practitioners who were supposed to treat the veterans.

Go ask a veteran how or if they were helped, most will say it was like pulling their own damned teeth so I gave up.

If you want a true accounting of what a soldier goes through with this "enlightened" process of psychological screening you believe so much in, go read the harrowing account of Colby Buzzell, an author and a veteran diagnosied with PTSD. In his article in Esquire who had to go through the ordeal of being reactivated and sent back to Iraq after being out of the military for almost four years: The Army Wants You...Again! (Yes, Really.). The article is long, but soldier on if you really want to give some attention to the problem you believe is being taken care of.

What they have done is not enough to break the stigma behind the thinking in the military of PTSD being a weakness. This belief has been ingrained into the mindset of generations of soldiers and cannot be overcome by a screening or the CO standing up in front of the troops and saying it is OK to have PTSD and to get help for it. Decades of indoctrination have to be overcome; the only way to do that would be to implement training and education on the psychological impact of war on the mind and the possible ramifications they may face.

Hell, even before the troops enlist they have been taught that PTSD is a problem of moral fiber. Look at what we have done as a nation to our Vietnam brothers and past veterans, how many of them have become homeless because of trauma that has overwhelmed them? 200,000 veterans are homeless on the streets of America on any given night. Half of them have a mental illness, a third of them have been to combat. Tragically we throw away good people who need extensive help in getting their life back together. We venerate and honor the soldier but betray the veteran.

The culture of the military, the Army and Marines especially indoctrinates soldiers to become and believe that no one can oppose them with an air of invincibility. Soldiers have been trained to think that they can overcome any obstacle. But how does he/she defeat a problem without any substance other than mental manifestations that get in the way of normal functioning and affect life in general. In a battle with no solid enemy and no apparent battleground the warrior having been trained to combat the physical comes in contact with a foe that can over shadow the imagination.

The soldier usually does not understand or recognize the changes that have transformed them into a different person than the one who left and came back. They have just survived the impossible situation of combat, how can they troubled by some little problem of thinking or behavior? The biggest trouble of screening in the military does not take into account of the issue of longevity and accumulative effects of psychological troubles. Most veterans with PTSD can function enough to convince themselves, usually not their families though, that they do not have a problem until they accumulate to proportions that disable and debilitate them possibly taking years to decades.

The lip service in the media today talks as if the programs they report on has national impacts on our soldiers and veterans. Do not believe the hype; the programs being discussed have only begun to address a problem that has plagued our veterans and soldiers since the founding of our country. In the last five years different programs have been developed to treat PTSD sporadically across the nation, and the high demand for these services pale in comparison to the soldiers and veterans who need them. 300,000 war veterans and soldiers from the current conflicts have been estimated to need psychological help and treatment; this does not take into account of the veterans already in the system or the ones who do not have the capacity to go through such a rigorous process.

September 25, 2008

A PTSD Tool Box: Suggestions in Help for a Combat PTSD Vet

For now concentrate on three things; your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Today the only thing you can change or control is your behavior, by doing so you can change your thinking and feelings over time. With concentration on your own thoughts and feelings you can begin to reconnect with yourself and better control your behavior.
  • Get into counseling-to help with choices, services and direction of care
  • Find a therapist you can trust-therapy for PTSD and the integration of thoughts, feelings and behavior
  • Find a psychiatrist you trust-medications may help to manage anxiety, depression, etc
  • Get a "Tool Box" for coping with PTSD
  • Find some people who you can identify with who have PTSD to talk with-a link on how I put these things together, What I Did to Battle PTSD
  • Educate yourself on PTSD and identify the symptoms of your particular case
  • Tool Box,
Most of all, learn to forgive yourself. Take your time, learning new things about our situation generally does not translate into sweeping changes. Our expectations can sometimes overshadow the accomplishments we have achieved. Count your victories in the battle of PTSD recovery in incremental steps. Give yourself credit for the small things in life that we as survivors seldom do, you deserve to be alive and happy.

September 23, 2008

Honor the Solider, Betray the Veteran

I am going to center a paper on the four marines who are being charged with war crimes, the one being Ryan Weemer who confessed to the FBI interviewer. I want to write this paper and do not think I can do so without the motivation of a deadline and a grade. I feel like it can be therapeutic for me as I have some issues with what Ryan said to get himself and his battle buddies charged with war crimes.

But, I can definitely see how his self-condemnation could have happened. I think that he had not even considered the actions and ramifications of his actions fully until the question was put to him.

How can this be possible you ask?

There is disconnection between everything human and what has to be done in combat. Imagine being in an unimaginable situation and having to do the unthinkable. How can this be done? A detachment between everything human and having to do the inconceivable resounds in combat.

Normal processes of everyday functioning operate at a higher level where not all stimuli remain in the processing centers. This input filters through the cognitive mechanisms placing the components of combined senses input to form decisions. This higher level conscious interactions in the mind can be circumvented in combat through defensive mechanisms triggered by the flight or fight response severing rationale.

An insignificant stimuli in the environment overlooked in combat because it was of no consequence to survival becomes a bit stored away as the filtering mechanism has been turned off. The presence of mind during heightened awareness from the engagement of the survival mechanisms bathes the neuropathways with neurochemical stress hormones causing the brain to register everything in the field of sight permanently etching the mind.

The mind receives all incoming signals and only responds to dangerous situations and dumps everything else into storage. The mounting messages become to much for the mind to handle so it creates divisions and compartmentalizes the information. Everything that does not register as a survival response including emotions, gets filed in the part of the mind that has been closed off. The attachments to emotions become detached this way and for some becomes more permanent than not.

Something about the conversion between Ryan and the interviewer triggered his confession. He broke and a flood of guilt driven remorse poured out of him seeking absolution, he could not stop until he had released the weight and magnitude of his actions.

Reading about all the second guessing of what constituents "lawful" warfare or "unwarranted" actions in a combat situation sickens me. To think that actions taken in THE most intensive combat engagement of the Iraqi War, are judging an incomprehensible situation. Imagine, your best friend has just been killed not to mention 93 of your fellow troops, three days of intense close-quarter combat, no sleep, do...ya think they ate much?

Now how do you think you would have reacted to the reply by way of radio,

"Are they dead yet?"

September 21, 2008

Stabbed in the Face

To the Man Who Stabbed me in the Face,

I never realized until later how I had offended you the many times that I did, I honestly was ignorant of my causing you to lose face in front of people you had grown up with. I see now the symbolism lost to both of us in the moment, by your attacking me when you perceived an honorable way to recover your lost esteem. I was flippant, arrogant and unable to quantify your sarcastic attempts to inform me of your slighted facade. Facades do clash.

Today I see how you interpreted my willingness to jest with you as a sign of disrespect, for I have been educated in the ways of jousting by seeming immortals of the sport. My pretense in the way that I carried myself during this time was in the order of a knight ready for battle.

I was thinking of how at one time that I felt it unjust for the punishment that you received for nearly taking my life, these thoughts led to me writing these words. I was thinking how you had to use your house for a property bond and the fear you must have felt to possibly loose your new home you labored mightily for. I likened this intense apprehension to the immense anxiety I felt after having been triggered into another compartmentalized Post Traumatic psychosis. Although one more weighty than the other we both received our consequences from the ordeal.

I realized today that I had confused my pride for integrity which lead to infamous righteousness indignation. I have told many people how our actions combined to provoke a change in my life and credit you for bringing about my willingness to transmute everything about me that I found lacking.

September 18, 2008

Combat PTSD and Crying

My writing about PTSD has been extremely difficult for me as I have dealing with shit that I have only now begun to process. I have had to incorporate a whole lifetime of shit just to get to the point of being able to face my wartime activities. I use the word "activities" to somehow sterilize what I saw. Language showing that I have yet to integrate a significant part of my life.

In the last four months since I started writing my blog I have been experiencing extreme dissociative episodes. After having realized this I started limiting my writing and reading about trauma and combat.

I wrote an article awhile back and would like to bring attention to it again. Dissociation has been a constant companion for the last four months. I have recently been looking at my emotional states before and after the dissociative episodes. My emotions right now escape me, as soon as I try and isolate them they dissipate and I can only discern a jumbled anxiety. Sleep escapes me and I cannot study with a blank mind.

My comment on the post where I wrote about dissociation,
I keep coming back to this post and wondering. I have given a great amount of information on dissociation and its affects on my psyche.

Why is everyone hung up on this one line?

"The Iraqi soldiers we killed that were trying to surrender."

This entire post is about the psychological breaking of a mind as a direct result of combat

"I would cry for hours and could not be moved, lying in the isle of the store just crying with my wife holding me…"
Does anyone know what it feels like to cry literally for hours? Two to three hours of continuous crying? It drains the body, dehydrates, swollen eyes, mucous running, physically exhausting and emotionally humbling.

What the hell? How about the dissociative fugues? Read that shit again. It is scary as hell. How do you think that would feel to loose yourself but still be aware of things as familiar? I still fear loosing myself today, I remember that shit like it was yesterday.

How about getting lost and forgetting yourself while at the grocery store? Ever been scared to enter a grocery store? Ever had a significant other have to come get you out of the grocery store because you have lost who you were and did not know where you were?

Did anyone catch the out of body experience in the last paragraph? How about the combination of beauty and terror triggering the feeling of awakening and becoming one with the universe? The feeling of becoming one with everything, that experience of being enveloped into absolute existence and consciousness. Never have I felt that kind of completeness since that day.

This post is about the breaking of a spirit and the severe effects that it has on a wounded mind. My mind continuously tries to access the eternal feeling inside of my conscious, leading to dissociative states that still confound me today.

Why is this important? Back in the day when I was so full of rage, anger and emotional turmoil I could not recognize the subtler aspects of emotionality. Which brings me back to where I am today. I have scheduled an appointment with a therapist to help me navigate the new journey of integration.

If you want to read the article on dissociation, click here.

September 16, 2008

Operation Warrior Quest & Battlemind Training

I have talked about how the military needs to start programs for soldiers reintegrating back into society. Well it seems that they took my advice, ok maybe it was not quite my advice. But possibly the vibrations of my good intentions were felt?

Over at A Soldier's Mind, a blog worth checking, out they have chronicled the starting of programs to aid in the reintegration process.

The pilot program, called Operation Warrior Quest, will combine sports that are considered “high adventure sports,” such as skydiving, paintball, ropes courses, rock climbing, mountain biking, stock car racing, skiing, and others, with the Army’s Battlemind Training. The program is designed to help the Soldiers readjust to the calmer pace of life back in garrison or “at home.” The idea is that the high adventure sports will be a way to attract Soldiers to participate in the program, as well as serve as a release mechanism that will allow them to obtain the adrenalin rush they’re craving, yet at the same time, do so in a controlled environment.
Here is the link to the full article: Readjusting To Life Following Deployment

Trauma, Chronic Pain & Craniosacral Therapy

I have been having an interesting and engaged conversion with Ambivalent Hippie from another post over at A Soldier's Perspective, on the subject of the mind-body connection and how that effects trauma survivors and figured that others my benefit from this exchange. Here she describes her quest for learning to help our veterans,
I'm a massage therapist, getting training in craniosacral therapy, which deals with a fair amount of neurological reprogramming after the dissociation and compartmentalization that often comes with trauma. I want to help these guys and honestly am struggling to maintain hope, feeling somewhat powerless.
A comment by me concerning chronic pain and trauma:
...I have read some about how the body remembers trauma even if the conscious mind does not. How this somatic connection can manifest in the body becoming ridged and tense leading to chronic pain and fatigue. In the reading I have sampled massage has released this tension and in doing so unblocks the memories that have been suppressed.

The neurological reprogramming that you mentioned along with dissociation and compartmentalization interest me as I have wrote extensively these matters from a psychological perspective. I would appreciate some expounding on your understanding of the connection with the physiological aspects of massage and the release of the psychological defensive mechanisms that trouble the mind-body connexion of the traumatized person.
Ambivalent Hippie's response:
Basically the idea is that our body is the vehicle for all of our experiences - we literally metabolize them. What often happens with trauma is that an experience is overwhelming enough that the body doesn't fully process it. It centers the disturbance and holds it in a particular location to contain it. The simplest example of this would be a "knot", or tension/spasm in someone's shoulder-blade, but this can also show up in someone's nervous system, with memories that have been shut out of consciousness or show up as flashbacks and disrupt functioning on some level. Either way, the experience can hold a tremendous amount of energetic charge.

With the trust of a safe therapeutic relationship, and learning to have a conscious relationship with one's own body, there can be space for these kinds of holdings to release. Physical releases often show up as tremors or shaking, as animals tend to do after a traumatic event. Our society and conscious minds can sometimes suppress this process from running its course. Emotional releases are harder to predict or describe, but they do happen also. Once the energy holding the traumatic memory in place in the nervous system and tissue has been released, the relationship to certain memories can be entirely different, allowing people to exist more fully in the present moment.

Some helpful books might be:
  • Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine
  • The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild
  • The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease by Robert Scear
  • Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body and Society by Van der Kolk, McFarlane and Weisaeth
  • Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman
Hope that helps!
My next comment,
AH, thank you for the education and information on the mind body connection. I have read a little on the subject and have considered doing massage therapy and hypnosis to get past the physical wreckage that resides in my body.

Most of the time I cannot sleep well and when I get up in the morning it feels as thought a truck has ran me over. I feel physical pain constantly everyday and very rarely am I relaxed. I have to remind myself to relax the muscles in my legs and buttocks, but have yet to learn how to mentally relax the muscle group in my back.

September 14, 2008

Lower Recruitment Standards Contributing to Military Suicide Rates?

Are you kidding me?

I was checking out the Army's Stand-To website to see what tabs were being kept on the blog world. I clicked on a link about military suicides and found a whooping flaming red flag of ignorance and decided to Try and put it out.

When I read the question of whether lower recruitment standards were contributing to higher military suicide rates, I immediately wanted to react negatively and harshly. But I had to think about where it came from and I had to deduce that it was from ignorance of military life and the nature of combat.

The military way of life provides strong attachments through a communal approach to every aspect of interactions between soldiers and their families. Whether through a support network for the spouse of a soldier to help one another or to the training of our troops.

This interconnectedness brings a sense of herdness into the human fold centered around the soldier. Developing and enveloping the individual perspectives while opening them to a cohesive togetherness usually not felt before enlisting.

I am describing the level of bonding that occurs on a military post before a war has been brought into the picture. Now add in a military conflagration and this level of interpersonal commitment and associations have become welded to each others identity.

Bonding through blood and battle takes the soldier to a whole new level of raw humanism forged through survival and fight or flight defensive mechanisms. The psychology of killing alters the terrain of the mind disabling the rational machinery and enabling the ancient reflexive responsive unconscious.

When combat takes away the soldier who has became the centerpiece of an intimate community it breaks down. Whether he has been buried or she has become a prisoner of her own mind; war fractures the body, mind, spirit and the community that once knew cohesion.

The troops who do make it out of the theater of combat have been changed in body and mind. They have lost substantial parts of their mind, soul and community. Psychological trauma devastates the battle buddy, spouse, children and splinters everything that once was the bedrock of the American Soldier.

Add it all up and what do you think the equation equals?

September 12, 2008

The Troops are Counting on Me to Remember

I keep in touch with a wonderful lady who goes to the airport to see off our troops. I can still remember the day that I went to the airport to go off to war, I was scared as hell. Paulette's Rambling Mind is where you will find her blog.
I spent all day yesterday watching TV and remembering 9/11 all over again. This is my first 9/11 since visiting Ground Zero last November. It's hard to believe I walked those same streets. The same streets that so many of my fellow Americans died on..cried on..bled on..ran for their lives on..stood in disbelief and horror of what they were witnessing. To say I have actually been there and walked on hallowed seems unreal to me. Maybe because 9/11 is the day that forever changed my life. I know it changed almost everyone's life in some way, but it had a profound effect on me. Having lived in a military town all of my life I had taken it all for granted...well all that came to an end. I got to see up close and personal the sacrifices that were being made by the men and women in uniform I had shared my community with. I knew it was time for me to give back. It was my turn to do something for them. I began sending letters and care packages over seas, then joined USO..and here I am..still going strong. The irony of all of it is yesterday was 9/11..the day that started it all for me. The day that caused the War on Terror to begin..and tonight 9/12, I sent off a plane of soldiers to go fight that war. Most of them only 18-19 years old. Most of them going for the first time..most of them quiet..some of them scared...none of them happy to be leaving their families. So in groups of 20 they walk in single file lines to the waiting plane. It was a beautiful night on the tarmac..a full moon with a few white clouds..a nice breeze. I watch as each goes up the stairs. A lot of them have tiny American flags stuck in their helmets. I can see the outlines of the flags against the full moon behind them. An incredible sight to see. And inside I'm dying..I have done over 400 flights..and I will never get used to seeing that line of soldiers leaving. The brave faces they try to put forth..and the ones that just can't take it and tears fall down their cheeks as they go by. I stand and wonder..yesterday was 9/11..and today they're going off to they put the two things together? The whole reason they're going is because of yesterday..because of what yesterday meant. Then I wonder how many people put those two things together? Way too many people have forgotten 9/11..they moved on with life and put it behind them...yet here I am all these years later still sending young people off to fight the same war. The exact same war everyone supported 7 years ago. How do people forget? How can you forget?

So the plane is loaded and ready to go..I stand off from the crowd like I always do..I stand alone in the light so I can be seen. And I wave. I don't want them to think they have been abandoned. My eyes filled with tears when I saw a single window shade go down..then up..then down..then up..then I realized it was one of them letting me know they could see me. Then I saw other hands waving back and forth..they could see me and were waving back. I had to choke back sobs..they were actually waving back..not one or two..but several! It was at that moment that I knew I was where I was supposed to be. Call it fate, destiny, or just dumb blind luck..whatever it was..I was meant to be on that tarmac tonight..9/12 2008. God please be with them and bring them home. I will never forget..the troops are counting on me to remember.

September 11, 2008

9-11 A Day I Will Never Forget

My older sister was on the 33rd floor of the towers and was one of the first to get out.

We watched the TV frozen, numb and praying against all odds. We waited, four hours later he called from a pay phone to let us know he was alive.

The emotions that I felt were severely conflicted, elation, grief, anger, sorrow and a hundred more.

To this day I cannot watch images of that day, I do not need to. They have been etched in my mind for life.

September 8, 2008

Milbloggies Nominations

The 2008 Milboggies have opened for voting. Go to my profile at and then click on the nominate button. You will have to register and sign in to nominate me.

The nominations close on September 10th, so go do not wait! I appreciate everyone's support.

Rules and Instructions:

The Milbloggies Award recognizes military bloggers for their contribution to blogging, news and information, and to the military over the past year.

Nomination and Voting Overview

1. A military blog can be nominated ONLY once by the same registered user. However, a user can nominate as many military blogs as they wish.

All nominations must be submitted online through by 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008.

2. The top five nominees in each branch category will be announced on Thursday, September 11th, 2008 and those nominees will move into the Voting Phase beginning September 11th, 2008.

3. Nominees may be military blogs that belong to the following branch categories in the database:

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Military (Parent)

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U.S. Military (Veteran)

U.S. Military (Supporter)

U.S. Navy

4. To nominate and/or vote for a military blog, you must be signed in to the website. Registration is quick and free and you will not receive any SPAM. This helps maintain the integrity of voting by reducing possible click fraud. To place your nomination, simply click on the listing in the database, and click the Nominate button that appears at the top of the military blog profile.

September 6, 2008

Soldiers in Combat Develop a Powerful Attachment to one Another

The question about will a soldier seek out help when they are losing sleep and exhibiting signs of PTSD. Probably not if they are still in the military, because the military has a deep ingrained belief that PTSD is a weakness.

Another thing to consider, soldiers in combat develop a powerful attachment to one another. The strength of this bonding overshadows all others, even family. First of all the degree of familiarity and closeness that extreme survival situations such as combat, brings people together to a height one has never experinced before. People have an instinctual need to feel a belonging such as in a herd where they feel safe.

A small combat squad that has experinced several fire fights develops a sense of oneness with each other, they have become one organism through the forging process of fight or flight. Due to the nature of killing and survival all of their other emotionality has become severed from their environment and channeled into the solidarity that soldiering brings. If one of them gets wounded or killed they all feel it through their connection of unity.

This herdness has supplanted all other attachments while people they once knew intimately have become foreign and strange. The family, friends and soldier feel this estrangement and all involved become unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Family and friends cannot understand what they have been through, so they seek others who do.

Some soldiers will long for that interconnectedness left in the field when they came home and reenlist or volunteer for another tour. Many soldiers find that their PTSD symptoms dissipate or vanish while back in the theater of combat, they have reentered the realm of survival, fight or flight and oneness with soldiering.

September 5, 2008

Fully Train our Soldiers for the Rigors of War

In the military, especially in combat arms the training centers on becoming effective warriors without a concentration in developing into a full identity and individual, a requirement for reintegration back into society. In a battle with no solid enemy and no apparent battleground the warrior having been trained to combat the physical comes in contact with a foe that can over shadow the imagination.

The identification and reinforcement of values, emotion identification, anger management techniques along with stress management training would enable soldiers to realize better coping strategies when coming out of the combat zone. Further, interpersonal communication and social skills education along with boundaries identification would foster closer relationships with significant others.

By preparing the soldier or veteran they would have the necessary skills and tools to deal with the normal psychological adjustment of combat trauma and reintegration back into society. Also the person would have a proper foundation to treatment should they develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In addition the military needs to teach mental health sensitivity training and PTSD awareness as a standard, in basic training and continuing throughout their careers thus giving mental injuries of war validity. Indoctrination and acceptance of psychological wounds would eventually break the stigma tied to mental trauma and allow soldiers and veterans to reach out before their lives spin out of control.

Training in these areas would give our soldiers an extra set of tools and weapons in fighting the psychological effects of combat and war. Training them before hand of what they may face upon going home would prepare them if they develop PTSD. Otherwise they will have gained the insights and ability to recognize when their fellow soldier suffers from PTSD.

As it stands now upon returning home after having been gone from family and loved ones the soldier goes through a psychological evaluation screening. Our soldiers know full well that if they give the wrong answers upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan they will be kept from seeing their loved ones sooner. They have more incentive to ignore or commit to denial the signs of mental distress inherent in the actions of combat. This system compounds the problems of PTSD instead of addressing them, by reinforcing and legitimizing excuses and reasons to drive on without asking for help.

Finally, most Vietnam Veterans exhibited signs of PTSD years after coming home. Although I exhibited signs within the first year, it was 10-14 years before my PTSD became debilitating.