26 January 2009

Purple hearts.

Thanks to Lopsided Mom, I just read this article about PTSD and Purple Hearts. Sehr interessant indeed. (that's German by the way.)

I am curious to know what people think about this. I think it is a great idea, but I realize that it is a complex and complicated issue. See, Swiss has a Purple Heart. He got shot during a rather intense gunfight in a mosque. The bullet is still in his leg... they never removed it for fear of causing more damage. And Swiss has told me tales of folks who have 'faked' PTSD. (Or at least his estimation of 'faked')
Generally these stories involve folks who never experienced combat, never were in the thick of it, never were faced with the especially grim and at times horrifying aspects of war. On one case, he cited someone who simply heard a wounded soldier screaming in pain, then claimed PTSD. Here's where it gets tricky... from a guy like Swiss's perspective (ie: foot patrols every day, seeing friends die or get wounded, being faced with killing people, being physically wounded yourself, etc.) I can see how that would be deemed 'faking'. I get it, 110%.

But the scientist in me knows that not everyone is the same. Not everyone has the mental fortitude and ability for compartmentalization that a guy like my husband has (not to imply that anyone with mental/psychological issues is not mentally strong- I fully understand that it is so much more than that). I realize that, for some people, all it takes to forever alter how you see things, how you cope with things, is the blood-curdling scream of a fellow soldier. For some, perhaps, the events that 'trip the trigger' are less than those that other soldiers have experienced or seen and not had any issues. But does that then make it any less real? Does it make it any less valid? Does it make the wound any less painful?

And how, truly, can one know if it is real? Does it take a massive event, a visibly obvious reaction to a stimulus? Does it take the dissolution of marriages and estrangement of family and friends? Where do you draw that line?

I do know that the Army is taking steps to better understand this, to better understand and better identify potential issues when soldiers come home. Swiss had to undergo a series of brain function tests before this deployment, so that they would have a base-line understanding of his brain (can I get a copy?) should he have psychological issues when he comes home -God forbid. I applaud this action, I applaud the proactive tests which give validity and serious weight to the issue of PTSD.

But I ask you, what do you think of the idea of a Black Heart?


Anonymous said...

It was a thought provoking op-ed, wasn't it? The ripple effect of PTSD and TBI will be part of the legacy of Iraq - we need to find some way to acknowledge their silent wound.
I was struck by the image of the Black Heart. It seems far more appropriate that the ubiquitous yellow ribbon icon. War is not cheerful and peppy, something to pay lip service to by slapping on a car. It's real and sometimes it tears lives apart.
But I agree - who gets what when? My husband is combat trained but thankfully saw zero combat and yet one guy came home with a Purple Heart b/c he lost a toe in an accident. Swiss gets shot in the leg and this guy gets clumsy and they both get the same award? Eh.
Thinking of you.

liberal army wife said...

As the mom of a vet with diagnosed PTSD - this is a hot topic for me. He's depressed, angry, etc... He was in combat, ran a lot of convoys. He hasn't told me most of it. I don't know about the black heart. I just know my son isn't the same person who left, I know sometimes the only thing that keeps him going is his little girl.


Anonymous said...

i had a friend in Alaska who's husband came back with DEFINITE PTSD. Suddenly he was angry all the time, lying compulsively, crying during sex... terrible stuff. When I suggested to her that he might have ptsd, she'd never heard of it (??!?!??), so I explained. The next day at work, she told me she confronted him that maybe he should look into seeing somebody about it, and she told me he said "PTSD is for p***ys who want to fake it out of the Army."

I would love to see the Army take on this side of things, too.

I guess that's not directly related, but it's the story that jumped into mind. There are so many facets...

Tucker said...

I agree- I think this is so complex and can be so hard to define- but it is SO clearly real, and so clearly an important issue that needs to be delved into more completely. Perhaps this is something for us to talk about over at the forum?