Throughout human history we have sent men and women off to be soldiers in wars. Whether it was a war started because a colony wanted freedom, like the United States during the revolutionary War or a war that’s reason for involvement was not quite as clear like the Vietnam war. History fails to mention, the war rages on, even though the the counties say the war is over, even though the soldiers have survived and have returned to their homes physically unharmed they are still soldiers at war in their minds.
When a soldier leaves the battlefield and returns home, once a comforting thought, home becomes a foreign assignment. For the soldier the war is never over, war sticks with them and continues to negatively affect not only their personal, economic, and daily lives but the lives of those around them long after the last bullet was fired.
Imagine living a life where normal things like shopping and movies become huge challenges and no matter how hard a day, knowing that when you go to bed you would continue to be haunted by the horrors that made you this way.
One of the ways war stays into a soldier’s life is through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], a mental disability caused by the stresses of war that among other side effects change your behavior. A retired military officer from the vietnam war known as Perry who knows first hand about living with PTSD “You don’t trust people,” says Perry, a retired “special ops” military officer and patient at the Seattle VA.
“Can’t go to movie theaters. Can’t go shopping. You have nightmares-night sweats. You’ll wake up just soaked”. (Perry Pg1).They can no longer do simple everyday things we take for granted, like going to the movies, holding a job or even going to bed knowing your dreams won’t constantly be war simulation nightmares. These veterans lives are are worse off due to PTSD and the blame falls solely on war.
When Soldiers return home, being diagnosed with PTSD is just the start of the troubles that the soldier and the society that soldier is returning to faces. Edward Tick, a psychotherapist with an expertise in war related trauma commented on this mental disorder ““PTSD classifies veterans as “disabled” by how far they are from the civilian norm. But veterans are not disabled civilians. They are war-wounded soldiers and have different values and expectations about life. When we require that they get on with “business as usual” now that they are home, we put the blame on them for having broken down in the first place”(Tick). Tick brings up the important point that even though the soldier is home, the soldier in them is still present even though they have left the battlefield.
People change on the battlefield, being a soldier means getting different morals and expectations about life, so when you drop a soldier back into the world of a 9-5 office job and family life, there is bound to be some negative side effects, no matter what kind of person they were before they were sent off to battle. The war that society created, changed its citizens for the worse. The cruel twist of fate is that if a soldiers lucky enough to survive, they are doomed to walk the nightmarish battlefield that was once their own lives, forever, alone in their minds.
These changes in behaviors that not only affect the soldiers, their friends and family, but the general population as well. The Augusta Chronicle’s article “After combat, soldiers struggle with the home mission” reported “Once soldiers arrive home, military data show that traffic accidents, alcohol abuse, drug addiction and failed marriages typically rise. Three to six months later, as the joy of return subsides, deep-seated emotional or psychological problems can begin to show”. (Wesley Brown pg 1) People at war might seem the same at first, happy to be home, but that is only temporary and they cannot hide the change forever. Time passes and soon a community of happy families turns into a town of divorcees, drunks and unsafe roadways. War’s negative change not only affects the people who fought, war wounds will impact the entire town of the changed soldiers.
Going to war directly strains the relationship between the parent and a child whether it is the new behaviors or simply the time away like in the case of war Veteran Brandon Aldrich recalls, “I was playing catch-up [with my daughter]” after being away, he “tried to familiarize his daughter with his voice and appearance through regular video chats. ‘She knew my face, but she had no idea who I was at first. It was extremely hard to swallow”” (Nicholas Kristof pg 1). When someone commits to having a child in a perfect world, it becomes their top priority.
The father/mother gets to raise the child from the time it’s born and developed a close relationship to it. When one is a soldier that is not an option, soon you are away on the battlefield and all your cares are staying alive and your mission only to return to a missed relationship with your child. War changes what kind of father/mother someone would be, because war is a random factor, it is not always a choice so children end up with Parents that never truly got to connect with them and instead got lost in the war.
Families, Towns, a person’s everyday life: how could all these be affected by war? War is a traumatic experience and according to Edward Tick the change that comes with serving is unavoidable “…everyone who participates in a war is changed. No one comes through unscathed.”(Tick) War is such a deep emotional physical spiritual, all body experience that it truly affects every part of your person and your life. Everyone who is in war is touched by it, it is invertible. Notice how Edward tick uses the work unscathed instead of untouched. No instead of simply touch he instead to describe war he uses a word that comes from the noun Scathe, that literally means harm, injury. War injures the soldiers who take part in it.
The soldier are changed so they can survive the war, once the war is over the life they used to enjoy and survived the war for has lost its appeal, this is clearly shown in the character named Norman Bowker “theres no place to go. Not just in this lousy little town. In general. My life, I mean. It’s almost like I got killed over in nam” (The Things They Carried) Norman Bowker in one sentence perfectly describes the change that has affected his life. His home town no matter means anything to him, everything seems so dull after the constant tension and action that comes from war, his life feels so bland and out of place it is almost like he is dead. War has killed him inside.
Norman Bowker is also a great example of how a soldier can not really be part of certain life actives anymore, for example getting and holding a job. “bowker described the problem of finding a meaningful use for his life after the war. He has worked briefly as a automotive parts salesman,a janitor, a car wash attendant and a short order cook at the local A&W fast-food franchise. None of these jobs, he said, had lasted more than ten weeks” (The Things They Carried pg 149). For a soldier like Norman, who feels like the war is still going on, who feels like life went on without them, they find holding on to a normal everyday job tedious and boring and thats without the chance of PTSD related outbursts. Economies need young, capable people to work and and consume products. War takes people with futures and sadly, turns them into people at a dead end, like Norman Bowker.
The simple joy of being part of a family turns sour when a member of the family is scathed by battle. Take Major Ben Richard and his wife Farrah’s experience at a post war family “A once boisterous dad who loved to roughhouse with his children – now there are four, ages 1 to 14 – Ben no longer seemed to know how to play with them. He often suffered incapacitating headaches, overwhelming fatigue and constant insomnia. Especially when dozing, he was on a hair trigger. If Farrah rose at night, she sometimes didn’t return to bed for fear that her husband might think she was an enemy and attack her. Instead, she’d spend the rest of the night on the couch.”(Nicholas D. Kristof Pg1). Ben, once a family man now turned human time bomb.
Plagued by headaches and sleepless nights and could not seem to fully enjoy time with his wife and children anymore. Not with the war still raging on in his mind. Ben Richards wife did not have any help around the household in general either “he would repeatedly forget reproach her for not telling him. He was distracted, withdrawn and unhelpful, and he repeatedly let her down.” this was a big change from the Ben Richards Farrah knew and loved that was described in the article War Wounds “, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews.” “Ben Richards is one of the best military officers I have worked with in 13 years of service,” noted an evaluation, one of many military and medical documents he shared with me.” (Nicholas D. Kristof Pg1).
Major Ben Richards, a genius and a gifted officer before war, turned into a unloving husband and father in nearly constant pain after, Norman Bowkers empty life, these are only a few examples of wars change on a human being, and how it can poison not only those who take place in war but the world around them because the war is never over for those who experience it. The war in their head rages on with a new object in it’s path of destruction: it’s veterans lives. The pain and troubles they carry home with them affect our societies families, our economy and generally negatively society as a whole.