The Veteran’s Perspective – Destroying the Myth of PTSD
First, we must express our sincere gratitude and respect for all those Veterans who carried the Flag before us, all those who served on our left and on our right and all those who picked up the Flag and moved forward after us. No matter where, when or in what role, your service is appreciated and recognized. And, Happy Birthday to the USMC – Semper Fidelis!
As the first Veterans’ Day to be discussed from the Veterans’ Perspective, we must address one of the most important topics to be share with the civilian community.
A Tragic Myth of PTSD – Senator Dianne Feinstein said “If Individuals are having nightmares and panic attacks about the atrocities they have committed overseas while following orders from a war criminal like former President George Bush, then quite honestly they deserve it.” I pause here to let that sink in.
“Traumatic” Does Not Mean Criminal or Sinister – Senator Feinstein’s statement perpetuates a myth that we believe is at the heart of many Veterans’ issues. The myth is that the trigger or cause of most PTSD trauma is some horrible crime, atrocity or “wrong” that was done while in combat. Many of the portrayals of PTSD – even those that are nothing but well intended – often perpetuate this myth. A recent case in point was a widely circulated video showing how dogs can help Veterans with PTSD but depicting the “trigger” event for PTSD for the soldier being portrayed was him witnessing a young women being killed. While some may have such experiences, the vast majority of Veterans suffering from PTSD did not experience or witness a war crime or civilian atrocity that serves as the trigger for their PTSD. This myth creates a stigma that further complicates the difficulties Veterans have in dealing with the very real symptoms of PTSD.
Partisan Politics to Blame – We understand how this myth came about and how it remains alive. It was born out of the highly charged partisan political debate in the US that afflicts just about every issue. Most Post 9/11 Veterans who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan – or even prior to 2003 and after 2003 – can point to a difference in the way their service was perceived by civilians. Many Veterans may even share in those political thoughts that place “value” judgements on the service in one Theater over the other. So, should it be any real surprise that within the hearts and minds of many, or at least some, people in this country there is this belief that the Post 9/11 Veterans deserve or brought these problems upon themselves?
Adds to Uniqueness of the Veterans’ Perspective – Regardless of how or why the myth came about, it is the very fact that this myth exists that makes it even harder for Veterans to be fully understood by civilians. Could this be part of the problem facing Veterans seeking meaningful employment? Does this have anything to do with the reasons why the VA seems unable to be put on the right track? The Veterans Perspective does not pretend to know the answers to these questions. However, we do know that this myth MUST be called out for what it is – falsehood.
Call to Action – On this Veterans Day 2015, we ask that you do whatever you can do to help us in defeating and burying this myth. Take a vow to call out those who claim that US Soldiers commit war crimes unless there are specific instances / events being called out (and my bet is that there are criminal charges related to those events). Explain to children how the truly virtuous aspect of our Veterans is that they serve US ALL – they do not get to choose the fight nor the enemy but are rather an extension of our will. Help people to understand that PTSD does not equate to atrocities or war crimes. Most importantly, help people to understand that many people have PTSD and can be fully functioning and contributing members of society and are not ticking time bombs. These are truly measurable ways to help honor and THANK our Veterans!
By Elmer Ellsworth and the Veteran’s Perspective