Understanding the War Experience
Although U.S. military personnel receive extensive pre-combat training, war-zone experiences tax soldiers physically and emotionally in ways for which no training program can adequately prepare them. The horrors of war to which soldiers are exposed include:
- Reality-based fear of their own imminent death.
- Having to kill.
- Experiencing the sight, sound, and smell of dead or dying people (e.g., friends, civilians, enemy soldiers) with no opportunity to adequately grieve.
- Handling dead bodies and body parts.
- Observing devastated homes and communities and homeless refugees.
Even soldiers who have not been exposed to such traumatic experiences have endured daily, lower-magnitude events and circumstances which commonly exacerbate stress in war zones. Among these are:
- Spartan, cramped living conditions.
- Heavy physical demands and long work days.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Undesirable food.
- Harsh climate.
- Separation from loved ones and missing significant family events (birthdays, weddings, funerals).
- Career-related concerns (e.g., delayed graduation from college, losing a job, being denied a promotion).
- Sexual, gender, or racial harassment (e.g., unwanted comments or sexual touching from other soldiers, gossip and rumors directed toward individuals, sabotaging of work and/or reputation, racist remarks).
While these experiences and conditions many not be as traumatizing as those listed in the first series of bullets, these day-to-day irritations and pressures further tax soldiers' available coping resources and may increase their chances of developing physical and psychological problems.
James Madison University: For Returning War Veterans