The following was sent in related to the post “Real Gunfighter” written by The Panhandle Rancher:
I’m a combat wounded medically retired Marine Lt Col. I have 5 combat operations in my OQR. I was in Thailand for the coup in 92, Cuba for the Haitian refugee riots in 93, Somalia in 94, the invasion of Haiti in 94, and then Iraq in 04, including the 2nd battle of Fallujah.
I was blown up by an RPG in the close quarters battle on Nov 11th 2004. I had a series of concussions caused by IED blasts.
I was medically retired after spending a couple of years in a holding unit that eventually became the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior regiment.
Now I help wounded and disabled veterans.
PTSD absolutely existed in WW II. Also in WW I and the Civil War. Yes they called it different names….PTSD didn’t become a medical diagnosis until 1980. There is significant evidence that PTSD existed at least as far back as the Ancient Greeks. Athens recognized the condition.There is a physiological component to PTSD – a series of neurological and endocrinal responses to which the writer is referring. Once the brain reacts to specific stimuli that way, those responses can be mitigated but not undone. That is why he needed more and more adrenaline for the same thing. It specifically stimulates the same part of the brain where addiction occurs, creating the same neuro-feedback loop.
We warriors…we happy few…know things that civilians can never know, no matter how many war movies they watch or how many books they read. They experience vicariously what we lived through.We are keepers of a solemn truth about what it takes to protect a society – and we share that with every other society in history. This is why I speak frequently, particularly to high school students. Ironic, because I did two tours on recruiting duty for the Marine Corps. He’s right, the recruiters don’t tell you those things…but how could they? Most people in the military – even if they have been boots on the ground downrange – are actually never in combat. This is the so-called tooth-to-tail ratio. Anywhere from 10 to 20 support personnel for every warrior actually engaged with the enemy. More than 2.8 million service members have served in a combat theater in Iraq, Afghanistan or North Africa since 9/11. At best, about 500 – 600k have actually been engaged with the enemy. Interestingly, this coincides roughly with estimates of # of service members with TBI and/or PTSD.
The current term for describing what happens when you kill in combat “moral injury”because our society had created such a powerful taboo not just against killing but against personal violence. The military is brilliant at teaching and training the mechanics of how to kill , but not at how to live with the consequences. Personally, I found killing destroys the ability to feel joy or take pleasure in anything. I find this to be a common complaint among the post 9/11 combat veterans I work with.
There is a military protocol to mitigate the consequences of battlefield moral injury. It’s called battlefield traumatic event management. But it almost never happens.
There are a few books that I found essential to my recovery and my understanding of my experience of combat and it’s aftermath. I can recommend the following
War and the Soul by Edward Tick. Absolutely essential reading.
Odysseus in America by Jonathan Shays – also essential
Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy behind Modern Warriors by Nancy Sherman. No better explanation for why modern warriors are so “out of sync” with modern society – not just in the US, but Western Civilization.
After the Battle, the Trauma Begins by Nigel Mumford. FR Nigel was a Royal Marine who did combat tours in Northern Ireland and Cyprus in the 1970s and was wounded. He was subsequently called by Christ to start a healing ministry specifically for combat veterans, called By His Wounds Ministry. No one in the country is better at addressing the spiritual wounds of war than Fr Nigel.