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It Used to be Called ‘Battle Fatigue’

It Used to be Called “Battle Fatigue”

UPDATED (7.13.06): Jonathan Powell, former Captain in the Army’s 1st Armored Division, weighs in on Traumatic Stress.

One in three soldiers and Marines coming home from Iraq have it.

My uncle had it. As a young girl, I remember visiting him with my mom when
he was in the military hospital. He wasn't the dashing brother of my father
that I'd known.

Today it's called PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but believe me, it's
just a fancier name for a mental illness that is hard for any soldier to face,
though I'm clearly not an expert. But I have seen it live.

It used to be called “battle fatigue.”

More than one in three soldiers and Marines who have
served in Iraq later sought help for mental health problems, according to
a comprehensive snapshot by Army experts of the psyches of men and women returning
from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. The accounts of more than 300,000 soldiers and Marines
returning from several theaters paint an unusually detailed picture of the
psychological impact of the various conflicts. Those returning from Iraq consistently
reported more psychic distress than those returning from Afghanistan and other
conflicts, such as those in Bosnia or Kosovo. Iraq veterans are far more likely to have witnessed
people getting wounded or killed, to have experienced combat, and to have
had aggressive or suicidal thoughts, the Army report said. Nearly twice as
many of those returning from Iraq reported having a mental health problem
— or were hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder — compared with troops
returning from Afghanistan.

Report Mental Distress

About a Third Returning From Iraq Seek Help

The new study says Iraqi war veterans are diagnosed with mental illness
at a rate of 12% per year. But what about those who aren't diagnosed? There
are quite a few, according to reports, because once you're diagnosed with PTSD
or any other “battle fatigue” syndrome, you're a marked soldier.

Most of the soldiers diagnosed aren't receiving treatment, two-thirds
to be exact.

Not to be flippant, but Republicans seem to have the political form, a virulent strain of Bush fatigue and with good reason.

As I posted yesterday, with Bush getting ready to gut the VA budget,
it doesn't bode well for those with PTSD, which has risen in the last years,
not only due to Iraq, but other battles like Vietnam. As we all can sense, PTSD
doesn't exactly go away in one session.

One of the biggest problems is how to diagnose the modern version
of “battle fatigue.” It used to be named through trauma brought about
by seeing something horrific in battle, or literal battle fatigue from flying
mission after mission, from which my mom told me my uncle suffered. But today,
Iraq brings new horrors, as in the constant threat of being killed, because
there is no front line, as is explained in the Washington Post article. However,
many experts believe that's quite different from the full on mental breakdown
from seeing a horrific war event.

There's stress and then there's stress, I guess they're trying
to say. That line of b.s. might as well be followed with war is hell to finish
off the cliche motif.

The V.A. spends $3.2 billion a year on mental health. But let's face
it, most of the soldiers having troubles won't seek it. Steve Robinson, who
heads the National Gulf War Resource Center, says the numbers are higher than
we know, because just maybe the U.S. military doesn't want to find out the facts.

Here's the closing paragraph of the article.

“Upwards of 80 to 85 percent of people
serving there have witnessed or been a part of a traumatic event, including
engaging the enemy, killing people, or friends or themselves being involved
in IED attacks,” he said, referring to improvised explosive devices. “In
Vietnam, there were safe areas where people could go to rest and recuperate.
That doesn't happen in Iraq; every place is a war zone.”

I remember Hack
talked about the PTSD before he died, saying 17% of the Army's First Armored
Division had PTSD, triple the norm. It's a line I use in my political show.
I was amazed when he said it so long ago. That's about the same time right wing
radio quit inviting him on the air. Hack was correct, but even his numbers
are low by today's standards.

Soldiers aren't wimps, so I'm not trying to cry for them, because
they sign up for the duty and are proud to do it. Thank the gods. That said,
it's the government's job to take care of them, make the fight worth the sacrifice,
and not leave our soldiers to fend for themselves when their turn at battle
is done.

We still have Vietnam veterans who are not whole, living as ghosts in
a world in which they don't fit in. Maybe that's why this has always meant someting to me. I watched our soldiers come back from Southeast Asia to derision, taking a silent oath that if I ever could I'd fight for those who were too honorable to fight for themselves outside the battlefield. I don't want another generation of veterans
coming home from Iraq creating a new wave of American ghosts living out of sight
out of mind. At least America learned not to blame soldiers for pitiful judgments made by politicians. At least some of us never made that mistake.

U.S. soldiers proudly serve and they don't want sympathy, but they have earned
the right to be helped, even if they can't or won't ask for it. Talking about it isn't much, but it's a start.

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