In the wake of SSG Bales' actions, I feel the need to (yet again) explain PTSD. First off anyone can get it. you don't need to go to war, and you don't need to get raped or anything like that. You can have mild forms from just about any psychologically traumatic event. The death of a mother, favorite dog, you name it. So while there's an increased likelihood that you will get it if you got to War that is not a guarntee.
Second off the idea of a Veteran with a hair trigger is almost entirely a myth. Yes there are some that are angry. Were they like that before? War has a way of intensifying all your personality traits both good and bad. For instance my natural tendency to doubt my own ability was amplified, and in a way negated (after the fact). Hand a 19 year old an aid bag three auto injectors of Morphine and tell him he's now in charge of the lives of 35 men. That's a tall order for anyone, let alone someone whose not even out of his teens yet.
So what is PTSD what does it feel like? Well how many of you have GERD, Acid Reflux or Heart Burn? Its kind of like that. You live with it you deal with it. You don't really notice it until something cause a flare up and when that happens you want to have as little to do with anything as possible (trust me on this one a bad flare up of GERD sucks). For me only certain things set me off, and usually in different ways. Taps, Sweet Home Alabama, and a few other songs for example remind me of the friends I lost. That they should have lived full and complete lives. For this, I go in the corner, away from people and kneel and cry. Yes I cry. Believe it or not its something even the hardest of men do so don't make an issue of it. I have also been know to get misty eyed at the playing of the national Anthem. Why? Because I've seen the Rocket (Propelled Grenade)'s red glare. I've felt the bombs bursting in the air, and I've known the Brave. To me the flag and this nation transcend a lot of the more petty notions people have of this country. This is a knowledge and yes a love, that I can not share, but which War has reinforced in me.
But what of Anger? Doesn't there seem to be something that makes us Angry? You're damned right. Usually its when people act in a certain way, that is counter to Reason Common Sense, or just plain Stupid. See in the Army (I'm assuming the Marine Corps too but it's dicey with Jarheads) Stupid gets you killed. Actually anything and everything gets you killed, but Stupid most of all. Being "Stuck on stupid" is a recipe for disaster. We tend to get anal retentive (even if we have natural tenancies to slobishness). Try doing a million odd pushups saying "Attention to detail. Teamwork is the Key" by the time you're done you'll be so anal retentive that you want every little bit "squared away". When people act in a blase fashion, this tends to incite our Ire.
But pure anger? No. I don't get angry till you cross a certain line. Ethan McCord made me angry. His work going around to schools and telling falsehoods about the military is a betrayal of everything we did and stood for. Would I be angry enough to kill him. No. Flat out no. I wouldn't mind choke slamming him a time or two, but in the end I think he'll get whats coming to him, but that's personal. Douchebag or not, Personal matters ought to be settled personally, that they have become a matter of public record is quite frankly sad.
What about Arabs. An Arab in a man dress must set me off. Not in and of themselves. I will admit that when I came back to the States and I heard someone speaking in Arabic it would send a cold chill running down my spine. I remember one time I flew into SAN and there was an Arab in a Man-dress at the baggage claim. I watched him like a hawk. I wasn't the only one with a high fade or high and tight doing that either. Why? You key on threats. What do you think was a threat in Iraq? the guy that looked like a westerner and enjoyed the fruits of your labor, or the guy that looked like he wanted nothing to do with your way of life? The call to prayer too used to be an issue for me. How many times could you take incoming after the call to prayer before it sent a cold shiver down your spine. Bad things happen after Muslims get right with God, in Iraq. Is this racism? I don't think so. It is a heightened awareness based one exeriences.
So what does PTSD make me do? Well it doesn't make me do anything. I choose to do everything I do. I am the master of my own destiny, so blaming a syndrome on my success or failures is a bit of a cop out. It is true that I have a harder time sleeping at night. It is true that I am prone to snap judgements. But it is not true that I somehow long to go in a killing spree. If anything more often than not I want to be alone. Being around people ignorant of the was of the world can be taxing in the extreme. You try having people ask you how many people you killed or if combat is like Call of Duty before you just want to rip your ears off. Do I want to go all Virginia Tech and start blowing people away? No, no and HELL NO! I would have engaged the gunman. I would have done my utmost to stop and/or kill him before he could have done more damage. I am not, never was and never will be a thug for hire. I was a Professional. I remain true to the role of Guardian of the People. So please stop thinking you know about PTSD or that because you saw a report on the news you can somehow relate to me.