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An Active Duty Military Personnel Describes What PTSD Means to Him

In response to my July 27th post about expiation for combat killing in connection with an ongoing discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – see – I heard from another active duty military personnel:

I spent the mainstay of my early military career as a paratrooper. Mechanized infantry wasn't an option for me, because I hated being closed in, much the same reasons why I avoided life as a submariner.

What I didn't know was the amount of time I would spend crowded "in the harness" within a plane, one guy on top another.

Fifteen years later, I still get the willies when my wife sits next to me on the couch and the kids crowd in on the other side. I get short of breath and feel like the walls are closing in on me.

It's even worse now when we crowd in a Stryker [armored personnel carrier]. If all I had to do was throw some birdies on the altar to shed this claustrophobia ... well, prepare my sin offering! Other experiences may trigger nightmares here and there, but nothing so much as the times spent waiting for that little green light [jump signal] of relief to come on.

It was the repeated exposure to the same cringe-inducing experience that did me in. I imagine it's much the same with many cases of PTSD.

The flesh-eating bacteria of impatience coupled with the routine, possibly broken up only by the roadside bomb or occasional sniping, perhaps with the accompanying heartfelt trauma ... and the resumption of impatience with routine and monotony...

How does one expiate that? Guilt seems like only one-third of the entire spectrum of associated trauma.

I do know two fellows, both decorated vets of 3rd ID's initial invasion in Iraq [3rd Infantry Division]. Both saw heavy fighting, one even went twice. The first spiraled downhill with heavy drinking, losing rank and jobs, more than likely his family, while the second builds positive relationships and succeeds.

The first is an avowed atheist, the second a moderately religious man. He had a community to turn to that said "what you have done, what you have been through, means something to us." Perhaps that part is more important, vis-a-vis the parades you mentioned, than the sacrificial device.

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Technorati Tags: Iraq War, PTSD, Mrs. Lieutenant, military personnel, expiation of guilt

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