March 28th, 2006
I have received the following Comment from another Vietnam vet on “Sending mentally ill soldiers back to Iraq”. While it is posted as a comment, I know that many readers do not read the Comments, So I’ve decided to post it here as well:
Mr. Stoldz: I read your article, but I should not have. It was a “trigger.” Beyond that, I think you missed a group of people who are also endangered when someone suffering from combat-stress reaction or PTSD is sent back to war. What about the other members of that soldier’s unit?
It seems to me that they stand a greater chance of being wounded physically and/or mentally by that soldier’s presence. We can all imagine an instance where that soldier’s actions could result in others being wounded during combat. But his actions can also cause other soldiers to suffer mental injury.
Think of that mentally ill soldier as having a communicable disease – that disease being mental illness. If his judgment is flawed because he is a “bit crazy,” isn’t he more likely to commit atrocities? What happens when that individual goes into a house and wipes out a family (something that appears to be happening recently with some regularity)? The other soldiers there are now traumatized. He has “spread” his illness to others. How many others will subsequently become a “bit crazy” and imitate his actions.
Even if his fellow soldiers don’t lose their humanity completely and engage in this behavior, it takes a lot of courage for them to report atrocities. I know. I turned my back when four GI’s killed a prisoner in 1968. I didn’t try to stop it, and I did not report it. That was almost forty years ago, but some times the emotions are so raw, it seems like yesterday.