“PRESENT-TRAUMATIC STRESS…Downrange, no longer suffering the code of silence” We need to treat soliders like human beings…and prepare them for home life…

by | Aug 28, 2013


Spc. Travis Barrett, left, talks with Capt. Mickey Basham, chaplain of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, about an attack in Afghanistan’s Logar province that seriously wounded a member of Barrett’s platoon.
Martin Kuz/Stars and Stripes

By Martin Kuz, Stars and Stripes               

PTSD’s prevalence changes attitudes on repressing combat trauma while deployed…

Removing “code of silence” is taking place… Quote from this website article…

“PADKHVAB-E-SHANEH, Afghanistan — There was a time when Sgt. 1st Class Corey Hawkins showed concern toward fellow troops in a manner that more resembled a scolding. If his team, squad or platoon lost a soldier to serious injury, he offered words that pummeled rather than soothed.

The PG-rated, expletive-deleted version went something like this: “Suck it up. You can’t stop going — you have to drive on. This is the way it is.” He cared but refused to coddle, a devotee of the Army’s tough-love philosophy that molded him.”
The timing could not be better to share the above article in Stars and Stripes following my post about Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt Ty Carter.  The business of “tough love” should not be connected with soldiers in combat when they are experiencing severe trauma almost every moment of the day.  The tough love philosophy is meant for kids who need discipline and consequences not encouragement when they do bad stuff.  Soldiers are fighting for human rights and freedom on behalf of America.  Treating soldiers with compassion as needed during combat and when they return home, would better prepare warriors for transition back to civilian life, especially in re-connecting with children and families.  All too often warriors return home with a “suck it up” discipline that effectively bottles up the invisible injury and pain of trauma in combat. 

If my father had been better prepared for his return home from WWII, he would not have tried to raise us siblings like sailors aboard ship with the urgency of “battle stations.”  As a parent with grade school and younger boys following WWII, Dad’s style was the same as his Chief Boatswains Mate (BMC) less than compassionate and tough guy role aboard ship.  He brought WWII and the US Navy home to us and the kitchen was a galley.  He often did the “boatswain’s call” when he was home and got us all out of bed very early in the morning…“Bosun Whistle.” (click YouTube demo). We stood at attention and responded to his commands before we could chow down for breakfast.  All the US Navy nomenclature was used in our home to communicate.  We were trained well as disciplined sailors…  Dad even provided me with his US Navy Boot Camp Training Manual to study before joining the Navy in 1963.  Boot camp was a snap for me… no question about it!  My company commander was so impressed, I was appointed “master at arms,” a recruit leadership position.  This job kept me from doing the hated early morning exercise routines for all boots and saved me from demonstrating a weakness in my left arm from my experience with polio at age two…  I had to do push-ups with one arm, and got tired quickly…

So went life aboard ship at home…  The downside was we were kids and needed to act like kids in a family culture of kids growing up.  Dad did not understand parenting, so he was the “Chief” not a parent.  He lacked compassion and rarely showed any affection.  Mother was in the same boat with us, and was emotionally numb.  As a result we did not know how to act as kids.  We suffered from over the top discipline including physical and emotional abuse.  The “emotional neglect” in a toxic home can cause secondary or Complex PTSD in children.  The symptoms are carried forward into adult life, and must be addressed at some point to reconcile and allow healing to kick in…  Continued denial and stigma causes a sufferer to avoid treatment, and can be a lifelong challenge.

The real point with this posting is that helping combat veterans early on while deployed to make adjustments to military life and the discipline of combat before returning home can be very effective.  Allowing “present-traumatic stress” treatment is a great start in preparing soldiers for the journey of healing from the trauma of war and helps them to be better spouses and parents once they return home.  I am very encouraged by knowing that steps are now being taken to look at the human connectedness side of a soldier while in combat by starting appropriate treatment strategies during deployment, especially in combat…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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