Post- prefix 1a: after: subsequent: later (postdate) b: behind: posterior: following after (as post -traumatic)
Trauma noun 1a: an injury: b: a disorder psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury 2: an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma - traumatic.
Stress noun c: a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation
Disorder noun 1: lack of order 2: breach of the peace or public order 3: an abnormal physical or mental condition.
Or as many have come to know it: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As Forrest Gump would say with the nod of his head, “I, I, I, don’t know about that.” The causes and why are still being recognized today.
Many civilians experience Post Traumatic Stress, rape, assault, murder, car accidents. Police, firefighters, EMS personnel experience the stress related to their jobs. It is only in the military that ethics and morality come into play. Some out there may disagree with that but, only in the military are we conflicted with what is right and wrong and accomplishment of the teachings and practices of war. It is not until our ethics of right and wrong are put to question that something inside is triggered.
Sights, sounds, smells and light can have a real time occurrence that may transport a veteran back to that experience that sets him or her off. Women and men in the military that have had sexual trauma experiences my be very allusive towards the opposite sex. Many would describe this allusiveness as being gay or lesbian. In this type of traumatic event usually the chain of trust has been broken by an officer or noncommissioned officer in the chain of command. The soldier may feel that they have no recourse to resolve the matter because it is in the same chain of command. Lately we have heard in the news of officer and noncommissioned being jailed for these crimes against their own soldiers.
I have always hated the word disorder. As soldiers, we were not born with this affliction – it was earned in the most uncommon way. Witness the death of a fellow soldier in the worst of ways. The body torn apart from a roadside bomb would be a sight that would haunt for a life time. Trying to save a life of your battle buddy that has just been shot by an enemy bullet. The avulsions of body parts when putting a burn victim on a stretcher. Watching the death of a soldier when there is nothing that can be done.
The decision to serve in the military comes with risks, and with those risks come the possibility of traumatic stress. It is the job, it is part of the military profession. The normal person walks out the door for work and has to decide, Do I get fuel for my car now or on the way home, cheeseburger with fries or salad, Coke or Pepsi, what’s for dinner? For the veteran, that is anything but normal. The morning may start with the thought of a dream that you can not really remember, take a pill to curb the anxiety and anger that will come that day, not knowing when, but it will come. Do not stop at the gas station because there are too many cars, that means to many people and having to stand in line. Drive-thru is the only way to go or maybe skip that meal today maybe on the way home, or not, a stop at the liquor store for a sixpack for some self-medication that evening. Forget about Wal-mart or the grocery store – too few exits and too many people.
For the returning war veteran, PTSD goes back to the Civil War as cowardice, WWI as shell shock, WWII and Korea as battle fatigue. It was not until Vietnam that the stress of war was finally being recognized as emotional stress. It was not until after Desert Storm that PTSD was considered a mental illness that needed to be treated. The Veterans Health Administration has gone to great length to assure that veterans get the help that is needed.
There is help available for those veterans needing and wanting help, but you must first admit you have a problem. It takes a strong man or woman to admit “I need help” and then seek it. Veterans were indoctrinated to survive, persevere, and complete the mission. The mission now is to take care of your health. Remember the veteran with PTSD has a family that has to deal with PTSD.
Robert Valencia is a retired Army Sergeant First Class, member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion. He can be reached at 970-560-1891. Listen to Veterans Forum the last Friday of the month at 8:30am on KSJD Radio FM 90.5/91.5