I just finished reading Flashback (Subtitled Post traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War) by Penny Coleman
This is an important book.
This book starts off giving a pretty decent history of trauma in our nations past wars, but then towards the end focuses on strictly on Vietnam, and why Vietnam was different in so many ways than previous wars.
Interspersed throughout the chapters (Introduction, 1. From Irritable Heart to Shell Shock, 2. PTSD and Modern Warfare, 3. (Why) Was Vietnam Different, 4. The Collapse of the Armed Forces, 5. Suicide in the Aftermath of Vietnam, Conclusion) are stories from family members of Veteran's of the Vietnam war who have committed suicide. Mothers, Wives, Daughters, etc. One of the stories was that of the author, whose husband killed himself after coming home from war..
One of the things that struck me while reading it is how similar all of the debate was during the Vietnam war, to the debate currently going on during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and she points this out in the book several times, and speaks about it much in the Conclusion portion of the book) with regard to returning veterans, including the denial by the government that the wars can be blamed in any way for the problems.
A lot of people, especially those who are hard core Bush Administration and Iraq war supporters cannot admit that all of these troubles are happening, even though there is mounting evidence to the contrary:
To these people, of course these are just more examples of the liberal media trying to tarnish the President's reputation, and to keep the good news about Iraq from coming out, and to smear the brave young men and women fighting this war. They also seem to be content to say that those committing suicide are a few bad apples who can't handle the stress (like Rush says, the "Phony Soldiers"), and are not brave, good soldiers who are proud to serve (and possibly die for their country).
In the book, Ms. Coleman details the collapse of the military. In that chapter, there are several examples of cases of mutiny during the Vietnam war by troops who refused to go into battle. A few days ago, this:
How many more cases like this have been unreported or under-reported? After all, again, we don't want to have any bad news coming out of Iraq. These guys did not want to go out on patrol, not because they were afraid for their own safety, but for what they MIGHT do to innocent Iraqi's to avenge their recent losses.
I do not believe this will be an isolated occurrence, and I believe we will see more of this, especially since a very thin slice of the population is being sent back to the war(s) repeatedly. At some point, they will have seen enough war, and will rebel by not wanting to kill or die.
Other things not necessarily focused on by Ms. Coleman, but talked about on this blog over the past several months is the coming Tsunami of homelessness (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21678030/), and an uptick in drug and alcohol abuse and addiction among troops coming back from Iraq (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=3898810).
Now again, a lot of hardcore, die hard war fans will read these things and will conjure up stories and evidence of "liberal media bias" or the "attempt to smear the brave men and women who are fighting this war, by liberal America hating traitors." These are well worn fall back positions that have worked for them, and worked well.
But I think that we are putting ourselves in peril if we hide our heads in the sand and do not ask these questions and do our absolute best to treat the veterans coming home from these wars for ANY thing that may be wrong with them, be it physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.
My goal has been to synthesize some of these things to show that it might now be a widespread problem (but possibly somewhat manageable), but if left unchecked, it will DEFINITELY be a widespread problem that will not be able to be managed.
Ms. Coleman's book shows that we made some of these dreadful mistakes the first time around after our involvement in Vietnam, and we are, in fact still paying for it heavily today. Twenty years from now, it would be a shame if another Penny Coleman, grieving a husband lost to suicide because of war had to write another book like this.