In the wake of the military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, our media were all consumed with the news:
The suicide bombing that resulted in the deaths of 13 of our soldiers.
Reports of our abandonment of citizens and allies.
Images of terrorists celebrating America’s defeat.
The result, reportedly, for untold numbers of those who served in the Afghanistan war or the wars in Iraq or in Vietnam, was to tear the scab from barely healed wounds of those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. But this time, Americans everywhere, even war-weary civilians who were ready for the difficult and winless 20-year war to end, were casualties. They suffered alongside those who served. Their malady? A casualty of the spirit - as PTSD was once known.
Accounts of the disorder have peppered literature throughout history, although referred to as shell shock, combat stress, battle fatigue or war neurosis, until the psychological wounds were given the name “post-traumatic stress disorder” in the 1980s.
There are even references in the Bible to fearful and fainthearted soldiers, acknowledging the need to remove them from battle. Shakespeare too addressed the affliction in his writing. One of the more explicit is found in "Henry IV" when Lady Percy speaks to Hotspur about his mental state as he plans to go (back) to war.
“Tell me, sweet lord, what is't that takes from thee
Thy stomach, pleasure and thy golden sleep?
Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth,
And start so often when thou sit'st alone?"
In the modern era, it took tales of the horrors of trench warfare and soldiers being gassed during World War I to bring combat stress to the fore. Soon, the children and grandchildren of veterans of the Great War found themselves victims of the same debilitating stress. And during WWII, from 20% to 40% of the casualties were attributed to battle fatigue.
Today, at least, the condition is recognized and treatments are available that have had more success than in the past. These treatments are due our young men and women who have served in combat and faced selflessly what are for the rest of us unfathomable horrors.
For now, we can offer condolences to the families of the fallen and share our disappointment at the failure of our nation. And we can hope that time will help us come to terms with the legacy of our years in Afghanistan and heal the wounds of our veterans.
Read the full article on my website (ronasimmons.com) and on Medium.com.