After writing this essay it has changed my view on war but I also think the whole unit did that as well. I knew what war was but I didn't really know what war meant. I knew that war was two or more groups of people fighting because they had two different viewpoints on a problem. I thought it ended there. I didn't know what war meant to those who fought in the war. I didn't know what happened to them,. Physically, mentally or emotionally. Now I have a different viewpoint on war.
You are fighting a war in a foreign country. You are thousands of miles away from your wife and two kids. You think about them everyday. You imagine the beauty of your wife and you see the kids in the backyard playing with the dog. You are fighting this war just to get back to them safely and you’re family prays for the same thing. They miss you and all they want is for you to come back home in one piece. Then you hear shots fired and you awake from your dream. The enemy performed a surprise attack at your base, bullets are being shot in the air and fly inches from your head. At the end of the battle you see your best friend dead. He grew up with you in the same town. He went to your high school. You guys won the state championship together. He was the one who kept you sane in a place of constant violence. Now he lies lifeless on the ground and you lose it. When he died to took something with him that you can’t really explain. This changes you for the rest of your life. You see the image of his body on the ground for the rest of your life and you will never be able to escape it.
War is not something that is new to the United States. The United States has been fighting a war over 90% of the time that we have been a country. As a country we seem to be in love in the idea of war. War has been an essential part of our identity since our founding fathers signed the declaration of independence. We took one of the most powerful country at the time for our independence and won. Since then we have had the mentality that if we don’t agree with something that the first option is war and that we will eventually win. That we have the responsibility to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. While this is a noble cause, what we don’t realize is that not only are we hurting and killing the people we are fighting but we are slowing hurting and killing those who we send overseas to fight for us.
Some veterans are affected by Post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD is “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event - either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, mood disorders and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” These events can include being in war or seeing death. Many war veterans come back from deployment with this. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20% of veterans that served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) has been diagnosed with PTSD at one point. About 12% of veterans from the Gulf War has diagnosed with PTSD. During Vietnam it is estimated that 30% of Vietnam Vets had PTSD in their lifetime.
So what happens in the brain when someone has PTSD? Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PHD, who is a writter for BrainBlogger.com said “Understanding how PTSD alters brain chemistry is critical to empathize with the condition of the victims and devise treatment methods that will enable them to live fully and fulfill their true potential.” After studies of the brains of PTSD patients researchers have a little more understanding on what plays a role in the brain. There are three big parts of the brain that plays a major role in PTSD. The parts are the amygdala, hippocampus, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. In the first region, the hippocampus, PTSD patients show a reduction in the volume in this area. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory functions. It helps a certain person to create new memories and retrieve them for a later time when in a relevant environment. This part of the brain also allows us to tell the difference between past and present memories. With this reduced volume in the hippocampus, people with PTSD can not tell the difference past and present experiences. The second region is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This is the region of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotional responses triggered by the amygdala. PTSD patients also show a decrease in the volume of this area which explains the why people who suffer from PTSD exhibit fear, anxiety and extreme stress. The last region of the brain is the amygdala. In this region, patients show hyperactivity in response to stimuli that are connected to the individual traumatic experience of the patient.
War veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder also could have a higher rate of suicide. According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, going through a traumatic experience can increase a person’s suicide risk. Veterans Affairs said “Studies show that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD. Some studies link suicide risk in those with PTSD to distressing trauma memories, anger, and poor control of impulses. Further, suicide risk is higher for those with PTSD who have certain styles of coping with stress, such as not expressing feelings.” Since we know more about PTSD, there are better treatments available. Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, which allows those affected by PTSD to understand and change how they think about their trauma. Or exposure therapy. The goal of exposure therapy is to help control your thoughts and feelings. Therapy along with medication like antidepressants can help people affected by PTSD to live a more normal life.
So how can we prevent this? How can we lower the amount of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder? How can we lower the amount of veteran suicides because of PTSD? I believe that we can end this by not seeing war as the only solution to a problem. But can we stop doing this? One day in my English class we had two Vietnam War. The names of the veterans were Mike and John. They were from the Veterans For Peace chapter in Philadelphia. After a very interesting presentation, I was able to ask one of the veterans a question. I asked “Can you imagine a society rooted in nonviolence?” The veteran looked at me for a minute as I waited for a response. He said “ I think I can but if that were to happen if would have to start from the ground up. We as citizens would need to take a stand.” We need to see war for what it is and break up with it. Not only is war hurting the brains of soldiers but it is also driving some to the point of wanting to take their own life. Once we can take a stand together as one, that is we can finally start the healing process of the thousands and thousands of men and women who were willing to die to protect their friends, family and country.
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." Mental Health Effects of Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq -. U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/reintegration/overview-mental-health-effects.asp>
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." Treatment of PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." Suicide and PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 Out of 239 Years – Since 1776." Washingtons Blog. Washingtons Blog, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." How Common Is PTSD? -. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Wlassoff, Viatcheslav, PhD. "How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain?" Brain Blogger How Does PostTraumatic Stress Disorder Change the Brain Comments. Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation (GNIF), n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <http://brainblogger.com/2015/01/24/how-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-change-the-brain/>