Updated July 16, 2004








GIs Sick of War

GIs Sick of War

U.S. Forces Debilitated by Combat Stress

By Fred Lingel


Some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from combat in the ongoing guerrilla war in Iraq have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have received treatment for it, according to a new study in a leading medical journal.

Nearly 7,000 returning GIs took an anonymous survey distributed by the U.S. military, reports the July issue of New England Journal of Medicine. Nearly one-fifth responded that they were feeling the effects mentally of serving in combat and sought treatment for it.

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, depression, loss of interest in activities, suppressed emotions, anxiety, trouble concentrating, anger and violent outbursts. These can be triggered by sights, smells or general stress of life.

The military is trying to do a better job at identifying the signs of trouble after criticism following previous wars such as Vietnam. As many as 15 percent of Vietnam veterans, who were examined years after the war ended, admitted they still suffered from the ailment.

Doctors have acknowledged that the number of soldiers affected by the mental condition may rise because the survey was conducted shortly after the U.S. troops left the battlefield. Symptoms of PTSD can often develop months or years later, said an official from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center in an editorial accompanying the study.

Today, there is concern among the military that PTSD may be a problem, which, if left untreated, can surface years from now and affect how soldiers deal with life in the civilian world.

“We’re saying to the world we have nothing to hide,’’ said William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “This is about getting better at something that is important and that our leadership considers important.”


© American Free Press 2004