Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Syndrome is a psychological condition caused by exposure to an extremely traumatic event. Characteristic symptoms include anxiety and flashbacks.
This condition has come to the attention of the general public due to the increase in the number of cases that affect veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf and Afghanistan War.
Has anyone ever wondered why this syndrome was not heavily mentioned after the Second World War?
Of course, back then it was considered “battle fatigue,” as in the famous incident when General George Patton slapped a soldier and accused him of cowardice instead of a mental disorder.
Succumbing to any type of mental illness or counseling prior to the 1960’s mental and physical awareness explosion was a social stigma as well, causing sufferers to avoid treatment.
However, there might be other reasons that PTSD wasn’t as prevalent as it was after the Vietnam War.
The Second World War was no doubt a horrible, traumatic event and soldiers were exposed to things that were beyond imagination. Those that were key in liberating the Nazi Death Camps had to be hard hit with the brutality of war.
However, other than social stigma of admitting to weakness or mental images, there were many other reasons that WWII veterans were not as affected as those involved in later conflicts.
When the troops came home from this war, they were given a hero’s welcome at every turn.
The government supported them with tax free education benefits that included living expenses, low interest loans to start businesses or buy homes, as well as one-year unemployment compensation to list a few.
Not only did they receive the full support from the US Government, but society was behind them as well. Everyone loved “The Troops” and public respect was high for those who served.
Mom and Dad were still together in the family home, brothers and sisters usually lived close by for support.
Men and women came home to get married or to return to a spouse. Commitments went deep as many couples had grown up together and marriage was the pinnacle of their earlier relationships.
Divorce was very uncommon, almost unheard of, in the years after the war. Most veterans’ individual worlds, generally, were secure and intact providing stability.
The veterans of the Korean War, while not as privileged as the WWII vet, still came home to a stable society and family, for the most part.
The Vietnam Vet took the brunt of the unpopular political leaning of a liberal media that painted them as baby killers and brutes who massacred villages of innocent people unprovoked, which was not the case.
Soldiers follow orders and people get killed in a war. When women and children take up arms and pose a threat, it is unfortunate, but they join the roll of combatant. They are out to kill, and reap the consequences of their actions. When returning from their deployment at war, people were protesting and took their anger out on the troops, throwing things and calling names.
It was disheartening to get this type of “welcome home”, especially after witnessing the horror of war.
The 1960’s was a very turbulent time in the history of the United States. Students and young people were pushing at social convention and demanding that society change.
The Women’s Movement had begun and that was changing relationships between men and women.
The divorce rate in the 1960’s and 1970’s began to escalate as almost every state passed the “No Fault” divorce law.
This caused a generation of educated, working women in the United States, which began to change the face of the family in society.
The Hippie Movement of the 1960’s and the Drug Culture of the 1970’s disrupted society and caused many vets to self-medicate to deal with the trauma they had experienced.
Another problem for vets of any type of service and combat is that the military trains recruits to kill, as it is necessary if war breaks out. However, they never give them any official deprograming or counseling at the end of their term of service.
While Gulf and Afghanistan War Vets are returned to a society that acknowledges and accepts their difficulties, it is still a struggle to re-acclimate to civilian life, especially with horrendous wounds both mental and physical.