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Chuck Keller

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The Festering Wound of PTSD
by Chuck Keller   
Rated "R" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, February 11, 2008
Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is going to be an issue our country has to deal with for decades.

As part of my ongoing research into the tragedy of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I spoke with a therapist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last Wednesday. We discussed many cases without getting into specific names or incidents. One common thread seems to connect all veterans with PTSD: depression.

Different avenues are explored in each individual case but thoughts of suicide, violent thoughts, divorce and withdrawal from contact with others are almost always present.

Lewis, the therapist, told me the Veterans Administration and other federal agencies are doing “better” with today's veterans than they did with those of us who served in Vietnam. That may be true but there will be a price to pay for decades to come and that price will have more of an effect than just monetary consequences for treatment and increased demands on law enforcement. He told me all returning vets are “debriefed” now which helps them adjust more easily to the “normal” civilian environment.

One problem with that theory is this: Many returning veterans don't even realize how deeply they've been affected. Many of the Vietnam vets I've interviewed managed to appear to live “normal” civilian lives. Some were successful in business although many more have told me stories about their inability to cope with life. Many Vietnam veterans have been deeply affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Emotions and traumatic memories which have been buried for years have resurfaced. There has been an increase in claims at the VA for Vietnam era veterans.

PTSD is a festering wound which is invisible until some “event” scrapes the scab away and reveals the infection which in some cases, has been held deeply inside for forty years or more.

Here is a poem I wrote about fifteen years ago:

Vietnam Vet

If you haven’t held
The brains of a friend
In the palm of your hand...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t seen
Your leg hanging on
By a thin thread of skin...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t smelled
Napalm singed flesh
Or white phosphorous burning within...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t killed
A grenade wielding child
Or yourself with different skin...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t tried
To explain your brain
To a spouse who won’t understand...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t heard
“He was so different
Before he went over there!”
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t sat
Straight up in bed
At a startling sound in the night...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t touched
A name on The Wall
And remembered a face and a scream...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t been
So scared that you cried
And begged God to make it stop...
Then you may be sane.

If you haven’t lived
For twenty five years
With all this inside...
Then you may be sane.

But you’re not us!

I hope I'm wrong about the price our country will pay for what this administration has done to this generation's veterans. It becomes more and more evident every day that the arrogance, incompetence and greed which led us into the quagmire in Iraq was all based on lies and manufactured, false or faulty intelligence. Meanwhile the Taliban has reconstituted itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is stronger and more dangerous today than they were when George W. Bush abandoned that effort and took our military into Iraq.

I know what many of today's veterans will feel in forty years. I know because I've lived with it for the past forty years. I know because I've talked to dozens who have lived it for all those years. I know because of the homeless statistics among combat veterans, the suicide statistics among combat veterans and their divorce statistics.

“We The People” can't turn back the clock and change what this administration has done. But we have no choice when it comes to dealing with the consequences.

PTSD is going to be a fact of life in our country's future.


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Reviewed by Elizabeth Price 2/11/2008
Chuck, frightenly true article. I had heard though that current soldiers coming out of Afganistan and Iraq don't have PTSD, but instead have a personality disorder and therefore they don't qualify for any treatment. And it's a pity because most Americans whether they are for or against the war want the vets and soldiers to have what they need. Alas, I don't believe that will happen under this administration. Great write. Liz
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