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War Wounds of the Mind Part VI: Half of Soldiers, Marines Returning With PTSD - Red Alert

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By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
May 5, 2007

A news report out today tells us that troops returning from Iran and Afghanistan, both soldiers and Marines, are indicating a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) “epidemic.”

More than half the returning troops have symptoms.

I got interested in PTSD last winter when I visited the mental health ward of the Veterans Administration Hospital with a friend. Every man in the waiting area had a story. Most served in Vietnam but my friend served in Korea.

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I ended up with so much information collected from doctors, nurses and sufferers that I wrote a five article series on PTSD.

In February I wrote, “The VA vastly underestimated the number of PTSD cases it expected to see in 2006, predicting it would see 2,900 cases. As of June 2006, the VA had seen more than 34,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for PTSD.”

In other words, the VA put a target on the barn then missed the barn and the state it was in.

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The investigative arm of Congress, the General Accountability Office, said Friday it will send a team to Fort Carson in Colorado to examine mental health care for battle veterans.

There have been complaints at Ft. Carson that some soldiers with brain damage have been misdiagnosed.

There are also some indicators that soldiers who return to rural areas suffer more from PTSD relayed illnesses like depression.

At the same time I was writing my PTSD series, Chris Dana, a Helena, Montana soldier and Iraq war veteran, shot himself and died. North Dakota has had five suicides and Idaho has had four.

In March, the Montana National Guard Commander ordered a complete review of the care for returning war veterans.The Post Deployment Health Reassessment Task Force met for the fifth time last week and it is already starting to see some recommendations emerging.

“I think it’s time this task force rolls up its sleeves and says, ‘What are we going to do,’” said Maj. Gen. Randy Mosley, adjutant general of the Montana Guard. “There’s a public expectation of a product. Everyone is experiencing this and struggling with how to get ahead of it.”

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In a U.S. Army Report on post war care released yesterday, the study authors wrote, “”A considerable number of Soldiers and Marines are conducting combat operations everyday of the week, 10-12 hours per day seven days a week for months on end. At no time in our military history have Soldiers or Marines been required to serve on the front line in any war for a period of 6-7 months.”

The writers are Col. Carl Castro and Maj. Dennis McGurk, both psychologists. The report also indicated that the stress in Iraq may surpass that experienced in Vietnam.

Although U.S. casualties in Iraq are far lower than in the Vietnam War, military experts say that Iraq can be a more stressful environment. In Vietnam, there were rear areas that were considered safe, but in Iraq there are no truly secure areas outside big bases. “The front in Iraq is any place not on a base camp” or a forward operating base, the report noted.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.

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