Travis Winer, Rita Nakashima Brock, Kyle discussed on Humankind on Public Radio

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

How does a person recover after witnessing the brutality of war? And when soldiers are drawn in as a participant in the violence, how can they heal? Warfare can leave someone deeply rattled, inflicting emotional damage, not just visible injuries. And these psychological wounds may not surface till months or years after a veteran returns from combat. This is why, you know, so many vets get in trouble driving because you drive defensively. You're not obeying any traffic laws. You're literally driving to save your life. And the way you drive over there is to avoid an ambush or a vehicle born explosive everything, you just blow through everything. Travis winer served two tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq ending in 2008. And the one thing that's left over from this day to me is if I'm driving and something is on the road that doesn't necessarily belong there, like a piece of trash or my eyes just lock onto it. I don't even it's a subconscious thing. It just boom. I just see it clearer than day because that can be the difference between life or death. It's a fear response. It's anybody can have it. You can get it from a natural disaster or a car accident being raped. Your terror system is on high alert. And your fear system takes over. Rita nakashima Brock, a theologian based in Fort Worth Texas. She grew up in a military family and has written widely about how people recover from military violence. An estimated three to 400,000 veterans now suffer effects like the fury response and other symptoms of post traumatic stress. And if that happens a lot, you can have a chronic fear response to things that you can be triggered in normal life by things that aren't dangerous, but they were dangerous before. Like a backpack sitting in a room or a guardrail along a road, you have this distorted relationship to reality that's not the fear reality originally in. It's been well known that war induces psychological and social and spiritual trauma and that that trauma is often invisible but devastating and requires a psychological and a spiritual remedy. Physician Wayne Jonas of the Samuel E institute in Alexandria, Virginia, served as a lieutenant colonel in the army medical corps. He treats patients today who suffer military related chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder. When we diagnosed and named it PTSD, it was, in many ways, a normal response to the trauma of war. In fact, admiral Mullen refuses to use the D on the end of that, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He calls it PTS, post traumatic stress, because it is a normal kind of response that you would expect from those kinds of injuries. And we shouldn't make it a disorder. Maybe it's just an understandable human reaction to the way organized violence can be deeply disturbing. Off the battlefield, some veterans may erupt in volcanic bursts of anger. Despair may draw them into addiction or violence against others and themselves. They may suffer nightmares, restless sleep, as well as what's called the startle response. This occurs when a person who's undergone a traumatic event hears or sees something that suddenly triggers a distressing memory of the trauma, soldiers have exhibited these symptoms through history. It was first medically recognized as PTSD after the Vietnam Europe. Now the stresses of war have afflicted a new generation. I had already had combat where I lost friends, very close friends. From Iraq. That's Kyle originally from Maine, starting in early 2005, he deployed to Iraq and later to Afghanistan, Kyle served as a second lieutenant with the National Guard and began experiencing post traumatic stress. And I came home and that's when I didn't say a word about it because that's when it really did have a stigma and I said, I don't want to tell him I have something wrong. I don't want to because I don't want to get kicked out of the military. I don't want people to think I'm crazy. Kyle has since been formally diagnosed with PTSD. He now routinely attends a clinic for at risk veterans and their families at Massachusetts general hospital in Boston. Kyle participated in our interview hoping it would help other vets. At age 35 he looks back on an eventful life so far. In this program we'll hear graphic sometimes disturbing descriptions of war. Growing up and working on the farm, potato harvest and October, November is going to be a pretty miserable, miserable time, cold, wet, tired. And long days, hard work, and I joined the IRB and I was like, you know, this really isn't that bad at all. And, you know, they put you to bed at a certain time every night and every day. It was something different. You got to go out and shoot guns and I just fell in love with it. Ronnie lavender, green tea, American breakfast. I visited Kyle on a Saturday afternoon at his spacious airy home on a long wooded road in the southern New Hampshire town of Derry. For the time after returning from combat, he worked in private industry and aerospace and defense. But then Kyle accepted full-time work with the New Hampshire National Guard. He remembers his time in Afghanistan. This was a very remote area. It was almost like the West Virginia of Afghanistan almost, you know, villages, some didn't have wells, they had their own flower mill. Still living in culottes and mud structures and things like that. But everybody had a cell phone. The U.S. mission there was to stabilize the region and to control the flow of hostile forces, these included the Taliban, which stalked the American soldiers. Terrain played a huge part. So if you're going into a valley to check the valley leads directly into Pakistan, there's one way in and then there's one way out. So they have, however long you're on the far end of the valley, they have that much time to prepare for you on the way out. Which was generally the case. You could almost set your watch on it that you

Coming up next