Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ripples in a Pond

Like the ripples in a pond.....

USA Today has a report on the effect of the Iraqi war on returning veterans. The report was published by Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine It is the most extensive study yet of soldiers returning from Iraq. The study included virtually all soldiers returning from Iraq:
More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment, according to the Pentagon's first detailed screening of servicemembers leaving a war zone.
A full one quarter. And it should be noted that soldiers who are male are usually not particularly forthcoming when it comes to mental health symptoms and pursuing care. Thus, I would expect that these numbers are probably a little on the low side, particularly for emotional problems.
Almost 1,700 servicemembers returning from the war this year said they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. More than 250 said they had such thoughts “a lot.” Nearly 20,000 reported nightmares or unwanted war recollections [classic PTSD]; more than 3,700 said they had concerns that they might hurt someone or “lose control with someone.”

And they've learned over the last few years to vent their feelings with a gun or via torturing victims. Battlefield conditions were obviously a contributor:
A greater percentage of soldiers and Marines surveyed in 2004-05 said they felt in “great danger” of being killed than said so in 2003, after a more conventional phase of fighting. Twice as many surveyed in 2004-05 had fired a weapon in combat.

“The (wartime) deployments do take a toll,” says Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We send them to austere locations, places that are extremely hot, extremely cold, very wet, very dry … where they may also encounter an armed enemy.”
The Pentagon, the masters of understatment. Apparently the trauma of Iraq II surpasses Iraq I, likely because it's now a protracted insurgency rather than your usual pursue em' and kill em' type of conventional war:
In October 2004, a federal panel of medical experts that studied illnesses of Gulf War veterans estimated that one in seven suffer war-related health problems.
This is really no surprise at all. Take generally very young people of questionable maturity, train them to be paranoid, to kill and to ignore any feelings they may have about it, put them in a crappy climate, surround them with people who (at a minimum) don't want them there or (at a maximum) are trying to kill them, and what do you expect?

War is hell. No doubt about it. But insurgent wars are the worst. One in five Iraqi's really wish the American's were dead and the enemy is everywhere. Death can come at any time, in any location and in any way. There is no relaxation....ever.

What Americans fail to consider is the full cost of the war. Each soldier that is mentally affected by the experience will have relationships that will be affected, especially including children. And those people have relationships that will be affected. Unfortunately, most of the effects won't be pretty. And all this will slowly ripple through American culture over the next generation or two. As a people, we are just now starting to recover from Vietnam.

The next time you hear of a casualty, remember that you have been a casualty in some way, and that at some point down the road, you will be wounded further.


At 12:59 PM, Blogger Lynne said...

And it goes on for years.
I have a relative who still has nightmares about his experiences in World War II.


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