If Hollywood screenwriters are right, the efforts of American veterans readjusting to civilian life make for compelling drama. The subject is certainly a perennial topic in movies and television. Yet Georgia readers might be surprised to learn that the real-life struggles faced by veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts may be even more difficult than those cinematic portrayals.
The story of a local Staff Sgt. provides context. Ten years ago, he trained in Kuwait on a .50-caliber machine gun before joining several armed forces units in the 2003 land march to Baghdad. Although he was not inside the city during the heaviest gunfire and rocket launching, the man was still close to danger in the supporting role he played: He resupplied ammunition, transported wounded or killed soldiers away, and guarded checkpoints near Saddam Hussein's palaces.
The man was also in a gunfight. He recalls an incident when Iraqi soldiers tried to overrun one of the security checkpoints he was guarding. The man fired the .05 caliber weapon he had trained on, but the approaching enemy soldiers were also armed with AK-47 rifles. The man estimates that the fight lasted about an hour.
However, another incident resulting in the man's service-related injuries of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The man was picking up equipment on a convoy mission when a grenade or similar type of ammunition exploded into a vehicle he was standing next to, dislodging a piece of metal and some shrapnel into the man's face.
The man reports that he woke up in a hospital, and suffered memory loss -- not even knowing his own name -- for around a month. His memory eventually returned, but he continued to have blurred vision, nausea and migraine headaches. Although the man's PTSD and TBI symptoms persisted, he was redeployed to active duty with his unit two months later.
This Georgia soldier is not alone. PTSD is one of the most common medical injuries among returning veterans. Some seek assistance from local army hospitals, and others may inquire into other sources of federal assistance, such as Social Security disability insurance payments, while working each day to overcome their trauma.
Source: ledger-enquirer.com, "Programs available to help soldiers with PTSD," Ben Wright, March 24, 2013