Thursday, January 05, 2006

Shell Shock

Ok, they have a fancy name for it now: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whatever. It's all the same.

After I came back from Desert Storm and went back to school I worked at a Vet Center where guys came for therapy for PTSD. I considered myself fortunate that I hadn't suffered any such ills. My time in the desert hadn't been under as extreme duress as some. Then I got married.

It wasn't being married that did it. It was the fact that we live near a fire department. In Saudi Arabi, whenever the Iraqis would launch a SCUD missile at us, it was typically at night and we were alerted by an air-raid siren. We had maybe a minute to get up, dress, don our gas maks, helmets, web gear run outside and dive into the special bunker we had built. We would wait in stunned silence (except for the siren) for awhile until the siren sounded "all clear". This meant that the Patriot missile had done its job. The thing is that the siren at the fire department sounds remarkably similar to the air-raid siren they used in Saudi Arabia. For awhile I would wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night when it went off. I might have dived out of bed a couple of times or reached under my pillow for my gas mask. It doesn't happen anymore. I got over it somewhat and installed new windows that serve to dampen outside noise considerably. Even without a siren, on rare occasions when I become extremely anxious, I might do unpredictable things. This is my programming. It's part and parcel with the whole PTSD thing.

For some, after having trained to kill, when in the anxiety of battle they watch themselves do horrible things necessary for their survival, they are marked indelibly with something that is frankly indescribable. There is a look in the eyes that is not recognizeable by any but someone else who shares a similar experience.

God bless our troops. Let us respect them and understand that their service comes with a price that many of them will pay for the rest of their lives.


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