Today we received sad news of an international incident. From reports that we currently have, a United States soldier is alleged to have entered the homes of Afghanistan civilians and killed 16 people including women and children. At this time there is no explanation given for his acts. The President and military officials are investigating the situation in order to determine responsibility and appease the Afghanistan government. It is tragic that this incident took place in the center of one of the most difficult war zones in the world and worse that it has further exacerbated already volatile international relations.
Trauma takes a huge toll as it hits our soldiers
Certainly there is an entire village of Afghanistan citizens who have lost loved ones and are grieving tremendously. There is also a soldier (and his family) to consider. Therefore, this incident of war is quite relevant to our discussions about trauma.
There is the looming reality that many of our dedicated, patriotic soldiers may be experiencing the very same symptoms of trauma–the same symptoms of trauma that occur in children and adults–in my recent posts. I have been extremely concerned for our soldiers and their families as to how they deal with the post-traumatic stress that occurs during battle and which can plague them when they return home.
Research verifies soldiers suffer from PTSD
Battle incurs a panacea of death, violence, fear and massive stress that takes a huge toll on the lives of our soldiers. Research verifies that our soldiers have demonstrated PTSD on the battlefield. Further, they have many untreated symptoms of PTSD upon return to their families.
The evidence of military PTSD is clear and its consequences are greater than we can imagine. This is an issue that we need to take very seriously if we are going to care for our soldiers on the battlefield as well as when they attempt to reintegrate their lives back home.
I have suggested therapeutic education for our military
I have personally interviewed soldiers who have been on the battlefield. Their stress is real, intense and damaging. I have also been to Washington to meet with influential politicians where I spoke about the need for therapeutic education for our soldiers before, during and after their military experiences.
Therapeutic education (including trauma informed-care) is needed to help our soldiers process the tragedies and trauma that they face each day on the battlefield. I believe that in providing them this education, we may prevent incidences like we have just witnessed in Afghanistan.
Think about it: Identifying PTSD, training our military leaders to be informed about trauma and making treatment available in the field could greatly prevent incidents like we have just heard about…incidents which could happen to any of our soldiers who face a significant magnitude of constant trauma.
Soldiers are not invincible
Our soldiers are well trained. They are strong and have amazing resilience, but they are not invincible. Sometimes the trauma is too great. Sometimes they cannot cope. They too easily find themselves in emotional trauma. Their brain state could place them in high-alert and impact them in ways that no one can predict.
It is my hope that as a nation we will begin to acknowledge current research and the importance of the right early intervention. It is also my hope that we will soon provide proper education and treatment to our military leaders, soldiers, support teams and therapists. If we implement trauma-informed training for our military, perhaps situations like the above, which could cause an international crisis, could have been prevented.
If you know a veteran who has returned from battle please encourage them to talk to a trauma specialist and get help for the very serious consequences of their patriotic service to our country. They deserve that kind of support and help.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network