Collateral Damage: Confronting Post-War Realities
“Gary,” my Grandfather admitted with tears in his eyes, “I’m going to hell.” 52 years earlier, in the Battle of New Britain, Wiley Ray killed multiple Japanese combatants. The admission stunned my Dad. Growing up, he believed my Grandfather was prematurely relieved of duty due to malaria. That and little else was said of the War. The topic was taboo; any inquiries received the all too familiar chorus of, “Nothing happened to your Daddy, just a hospital bed and pills. Worry about the now.” To be fair, this was partly true. The hospital bed and pills happened but only after Wiley endured six months of malaria ridden brutal combat which ended in shrapnel wounds. For half a century, he privately grappled with the horrors of combat. Nobody, not even his wife, imagined the Pacific haunted him. He seemed unscathed. How could a law-abiding, humorous, hardworking father of two be a psychologically damaged war-veteran?
Under United States law veterans enjoy the benefits of protected class status. It is odd then that veteran care and benefits after the war have been shrouded in controversy and debate. Certainly, it is popular for politicians and the media to taut their strong support of veterans and their rights. Obama addressed post war psychological counseling in a 2010 address, “America will always be here for our veterans, just as they’ve been there for us.”1 President George W. Bush has also expressed similar sentiments saying, “I’m in there with [the veterans].”2 For many veterans, including Daniel Somers, this rhetoric means nothing. Daniel Somers killed himself in the summer of 2013.3 He had served in over 400 combat missions in Iraq before coming home. Coming home did not mean solace. In his suicide letter Somers noted that he was abandoned by the United States: “To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing cover up is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me.”4 Somers is not alone, the Department of Veteran Affairs estimates 22 veterans commit suicide daily.5
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by a disparity in the Endocrine system, commonly referred to as a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. This system is responsible for adjusting your hormone levels in order to react to certain stimulus, and subsequently moving your hormones back to their equilibrium state. When a traumatic event occurs, our body releases a multitude of hormones, including Cortisol, Norepinephrine, and Adrenaline6. These hormones are intended to help your body react to a potentially harmful stimulus by mobilizing energy to your muscles, raising the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and shutting down metabolic processes (digestion, immunity, reproduction). With these hormones acting in your body, you are better equipped to deal with the danger that faces you. However, in cases...