Constructions of Gender and the Treatment of PTSD within the U.S. Military
The U.S. military shows a surprising sensitivity and openness to the emotional difficulties of being stationed abroad, especially in a conflict zone, and it is making great efforts towards preventing/easing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among its members (although it varies by branch). Group therapy is made available at Veteran's Administration hospitals and the Department of Veteran Affairs is connected to the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which provides many helpful resources including literature that speaks openly about "private," "domestic," and "relational" issues. This is in shocking contrast with the predominant military culture which is hyper-masculine and hierarchical.
The question of whether or not you have "been in" is not asked to determine your understanding of military lingo and procedure; what is being asked is: Are you one of us?
Romantic, and even realistic, accounts of combat almost always include stories about the particular love and selfless dedication that develops between soldiers and their buddies. Servicemembers frequently describe their units as families. "Basically, this was their family for the last thirteen months," said First Sergeant Dana Morgan, describing the 140 th Quartermaster company just returned from Iraq. He was attending their welcome home ceremony at Fort Totten in New York. The 128 reservists of the 140 th spent thirteen months (March 2003 - April 2004) in Iraq providing laundry and bath services to other troops.
Pacifists often drudge up the dirty details in order to de-mystify, and thus de-glorify, war. It is difficult to deny, however, that the U.S. military is an extremely effective system for organizing the collective efforts of thousands of people. The uniforms, insignias, nametags, clear social hierarchy, transparent reward system, and shared purpose form an armature for community.
A veteran from the Mid-West is vacationing in New York City for the first time. He goes to the USO center in Port Authority and, while his kids watch t.v. and eat Little Debbie snacks, he and his wife get advice on restaurants and theater tickets from a woman with coifed grey hair. A sergeant drops by to rest and have a free cup of coffee. Just as they claim, the USO really is like a "Home away from home".
The military system is, as one would expect, very pragmatic. Differences among soldiers and their abilities are viewed as strengths (or weaknesses) to be put to optimal use to get the job done. While certainly not impervious to racism and sexism, this very practical, almost scientific approach to managing human efforts supports a true meritocracy. But, like other hierarchically structured systems, a lot depends on the leadership.
Major General Richard S. Colt is the top commanding officer of the 77 th Regional Readiness Command (i.e. 11,000...