The Impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders on American Soldiers

Just Murder?

Imagine if soldier that had killed a man in battle was put on trial for murder. It may seem ridiculous, but what is the difference between killing a man in combat and killing a man in everyday life? Many soldiers come back from war with PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, from the gruesome things they have seen and done at war. Many soldiers also still feel the same guilt as a murderer may feel. In war, the act of taking another person’s life may not legally be considered as murder; however, it still has the same psychological effect.

In the book, Tim O’Brien imagines a backstory for a man he killed in the war. O’Brien never knew this man in real life, but he fabricated a whole back story for this young man. O’Brien is feeling so guilty that he took this man’s life that in order to keep his own sanity, he made up a life story to make this event relatable to himself.

He describes the man with so much detail, that he even gives him thoughts and opinions about the Vietnam war from the perspective of a Vietnamese villager. “In the presence of his father and uncles, he pretended to look forward to doing his patriotic duty, which was also a privilege, but at night he prayed with his mother that the war might end soon” (O’Brien 88). O’Brien did not only give this Vietnamese man emotions concerning the war, but he reflected his own opinion on to this strange man.

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O’Brien may not have gone to the extent of praying with his mother, but when he was first drafted, he considered fleeing the country. He sees himself in this man. This is why O’Brien feels so guilty about his death. First hand stories like O’brien’s can be supported by interviews conducted by PBS.

The military doesn’t even like addressing the fact that soldiers kill other people. According to an interview conducted by PBS, the post deployment questionnaires ask questions like “Did you see dead bodies?” and “Did you see people die?” but they do not ask if you have personally killed a person. This fact can support the argument that the military doesn’t want to acknowledging the fact that soldiers kill people and in turn, suffer from severe PTSD and other psychological issues following combat. When asked about post-deployment questionnaires, Vietnam vet and VA counselor Jim Dooley believed that the military was purposely avoiding these questions by not having personnel ask these question but instead having a piece of paper. “But there’s no live human being sitting in front of you asking the questions. And that really makes the difference. Because who would want to report something that you don’t want to have?” (Dooley) He’s saying that if nobody is asking you questions like “Did you kill people in combat?” then people, including soldiers themselves, don’t register the fact that what they did was in fact murder. This is why society can gloss over these deaths; not even the murderers realize what they are doing. Having psychological repercussions such as PTSD can be very common among soldiers.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a psychological illness that can cause chronic panic attacks or flash backs to certain traumatic events that a person may have experienced. War is no exception to this. The things some people may see or do during war, such as kill another person, can lead to tolling emotional damage. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, being in the military can expose you to a lot of traumatic events. “When you are in the military, you may see combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. You may have been shot at, seen a buddy get shot, or seen death. These types of events can lead to PTSD” (The Department of Veteran Affairs). The events that the VA is describing are the exact components of what makes a war so violent.

Just because a soldier is not legally put at fault for the death of another man in the line of combat, it does not mean that they do not feel the shame or guilt that can come with causing the loss of a human life. Soldiers can still feel guilt years after a death has happened, like Tim O’Brien. The military failing to directly address the fact that soldiers must do terrible things in war is acknowledgement enough that the organizations that teach people how to kill others are aware it is wrong. The psychological damage war can put on a person can be long lasting. Soldiers are being put under heavy psychological stress when being put in the position of killing another human being. All of these reasons alone should be enough to rethink the ways that the US Military is structured, especially post tour veteran care.

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The Impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders on American Soldiers. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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