Jordan is an Infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps who is soon to be leaving active duty. He’s aiming to provide a grounded unbiased understanding of combat operations, the post war military life style, and Post Traumatic Stress.
We’ve all heard the stories and potentially even known someone who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Movies depict these people drinking themselves into oblivion or digging fighting holes in their back yard. The vast majority of society bases their opinion or statements off of such illustrations. Today, where at least 90% of the populations knowledge base is drawn from what they see on a cell phone screen, it’s understandable that this is the general perspective of our war fighters returning from combat. Society calls Post Traumatic Stress a disorder. The word disorder is defined as “a state of confusion” or more so “the disruption of peaceful and law abiding behavior”. It’s as if people assume something is simply biologically altered inside of us. It’s ascertained that men and women go to war, experience death and chaos, and they are simply “broken”. How can we more clearly define what’s going on inside of us?
First of all, I say “us” because I am one of the “broken”. I am an 0311 (Marine Infantryman) by trade. I’ve deployed 8 times, four of which to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. My battalion was involved in the clearing of Marjah, “the Talibans last stronghold” as you might have seen on the news. I’ve killed at close range and at far. I’ve seen my brothers thrive in war and unfortunately I’ve seen far too many of them fall and pay the ultimate sacrifice. I’ve been wounded in combat, and I too am unashamed to admit that I struggle with PTS. That being said, I will also tell you, that while dealing with such issues I’m a completely normal, somewhat successful person. The vast majority of combat veterans are. Most vets carry with them a pride the “cockiness” unique to their breed. Unfortunately this “ego” only adds to society’s negative perspective of our behavior. (Sorry not sorry) What people don’t see is the battle going on inside of them that most don’t understand, and the sources may be of some surprise.
First, I’d like to address what I think is the number one reason for many combat veterans struggles. The reason he or she may seem withdrawn from society. The answer is simple. They simply feel misplaced. Deep inside that veteran longs for a chance to go back to the fight. Its where they belong. They’re a certain breed of person that longs to make a difference. In the fight, a warrior has purpose. He/she has spent years training for it and countless months fine tuning themselves to handle it. In that fight, they’re the most important person in the world. They are the thin line that stands between American freedom and destruction. The decisions they made at war were pivotal. Their actions we’re crucial. And everything they did or failed to do made a difference. In some of their minds, they will never be that important again. I face this battle every day as I prepare to potentially depart the Marine Corps. A sense that nothing I ever do again will matter as much as what I’ve done. This thought can be overwhelming for some, roughly 22 a day to be exact.
Further, there are numerous other issues that surface upon return to society. A fairly important one for me is relational issues. If you’re a veteran or are trying to maintain a relationship with one, you’ve seen this first hand. I personally found that after returning from numerous deployments, I lacked the ability to access some emotions that were so easily identified before the fact. I discovered that I was completely unsympathetic to anyone and that I lacked patience to deal with any problem that I didn’t feel was important. Countless veteran friends of mine have identified with this. It’s not that they’re incapable of love, even though some may tell you that’s the case. It’s just that they have been in situations where they’ve dealt with real life or death problems where decisions must be made quickly or “on the fly”. If there is a problem inside of a relationship, a veteran will simply identify the immediate solution and try to jump right to it without the long conversation or discussing how it made him/her feel. I’ve recently found that this isn’t a permanent problem I look at it like a wound that’s been numbed and stitched during surgery. When you wake up, you don’t know it’s there but slowly but surely a little bit of feeling slowly starts to return. You start randomly processing emotions that you should have felt in combat years after the fact. Slowly you’ll discover how to love again and how to feel, and how to cry. I promise you…this will happen.
I personally believe that those are the two biggest symptoms of combat related PTS. Of course PTS is not unique to veterans. It should be noted that this article strictly applies to combat veterans and is not to assume that victims of abuse, rape, assault or any other trauma deal with the same struggle. I know that their fight is unique in its own and comes with a load of baggage foreign to me.
America, this is what I believe to be the truth about combat related post-traumatic stress. We mustn’t shun our veterans. All we need to do in identify with them and care. Find a veteran today and tell them you understand and appreciate what they’ve done. What they’ve done will be with them for eternity and America thanks them. Love a veteran, love yourself.
Follow me on Twitter: @1stHandMilitary
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