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“Return” the movie-PTSD

March 12, 2012

I must admit that I have not seen this movie yet but will when it actually comes out.  I was watching one of the morning news broadcasts and saw it discussed by the writer and producer who was Meredith Viera of the Today Show and it sounds like something that I must see. 

Since I haven’t seen it, I will just try and restate what they discussed this morning and though they specifically state that it isn’t clear whether this is a PTSD story or not it, still touches on the readjustment that someone faces coming home from a tour of duty in War.  I have already, in previous posts, talked about several of these issues but they cannot be talked about too much. 

This is a fictionalized version of a woman returning home to her family and job after a tour of duty.  No mention was made of whether this was Afghanistan or Iraq related but that part really doesn’t matter since the readjustment is the same.  A short film clip shows the woman suddenly walking out of the job she had previous to her tour and to which she had returned.  Everyone was chasing after her asking what it was that they did or said that had gotten her so upset.  And of course the woman couldn’t say because she was just as confused by her feelings as they were.

Most people feel that there is some “Aha” moment or as they discussed the “Oprah Winfrey” moment that someone who has returned can point to as the cause of their problems but most of us have none to discuss.  Of course there are some that have seen something horrific that affected them but I would guess the vast majority have not.  They have been affected by the totality of the situation and this is harder to explain.

The headlines of today tell some of the story.  A Sergeant leaves his post and then kills 16 innocent Afghan civilians.  Why at that time?  This was his third tour from both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Why that night and what was the trigger?  It could simply have been that he had reached his breaking point and the impulse could no longer be contained.  The thing we should all take from this is that the pain does not stop once they return from their tours.  This will last for years and in some cases for the rest of the soldiers life.  This stress can explode just as easily on the streets of your home town.  Recently I was reminded about someone named Unruh who had gone berserk and killed quite a few people in the town I grew up in Camden New Jersey.  This was traced back to his military service, not in these current wars but the war of his time which I think was Korea.

One of the comments that one of the panelists made on this TV show was that people don’t want to hear about the troubles of returning soldiers.  Of course this was something that I experienced coming home from Vietnam.  I thought this issue was basically because the divisions that people felt toward this war itself and we returned basically in shame.  However, I see now that it doesn’t matter.  People will campaign vigorously about supporting the troops but that really is mostly about supporting the politics of war.  I say this because this support quickly dissolves once the troops return.  Have a parade or some showy things like this is fine, but as far as wanting to hear about the lasting sorrows and memories most are not interested at all and to whatever degree their interest pales in comparison to the hurt and pain that the troops are feeling. 

We need programs to help them, help their spouses and children too.  This will cost money but if you claim to want to support the troop then mustn’t shortchange them when they really need your support.