August 20, 2010

Combat PTSD Vets Return to Combat: Easier than Coping Back Home

Comment from a reader on July 24, 2010 from the same dang awesome post I wrote on November 11, 2009. It shares with you a more complete picture or a typical face of Combat PTSD Home and its members; we are the Families of the Combat Veteran.
Scott, your blog has been an unbelievable insight into combat PTSD and given me so much to think about. Thank you. My friend came back from Afghanistan a few months ago and has found it quite difficult to re-adjust but I only realised how much he was suffering during a huge drunken breakdown a few weeks ago. I felt so helpless I didn't know what to say or do but I held him when he cried and left him alone when he asked.

The next day when he had sobered up I asked him how he was feeling and if he wanted to talk about it but he said no and I didn't want to push him. And then a few days later he said that he was going to apply to go back to Afghanistan. I was speechless. He said life was much simpler there and of course I have no comprehension of how it is over there but I really wanted to say I didn't think it was a good idea. But didn't feel like I had any right to say anything so I have kept silent. A few days ago he told me he put his application in and I was so upset, is there anything I can say? I know he is suffering and now from reading your blog I have a small idea just how much, I don't want him to feel even worse.....
My response,
Amy, this is a tough situation. First of all you will probably not be able to talk him out of it. Second, unconditional love is just that we love them, but we cannot and do not try to control them. This will put them on the defense and no one wants a combat vet on the defense receiving mixed up signals.

He will keep opening up, it took me 19 years for me to finally open up and talk about my combat experience, many will never talk about it.

This may not make much sense to someone who has never experienced it, but he will feel worlds better back in the battle-zone. He knows the risks, dangers and never goes without backup. He does not have to look over his shoulder, because his squad mate has it covered. He is told when to eat, drink, shit and sleep. He knows what to expect everyday for the next 365 days and he will never feel alone there.

I still feel the powerful bond I forged with my battle buddies that I will never forget. I long for their company as much today as when I left the theater of war. If I could go to war today, I know that my PTSD symptoms would vanish, as your veterans will if he goes back. This is an issue worth studying and researching as this trend is spreading. Our soldiers are on average 4 and 5 tours of duty.


  1. ...And the light bulb just turned on for me! It's no wonder the hubby's first year home was fairly uneventful. He was still in the Army and we still lived near post very close to his battle buddies. For the first few months one of his buddies even lived with us. When we went out for a drink...the buddies came. They rode motorcycles together, went for haircuts together, and even ran errands for me...together. They always traveled in at least pairs. It didn't seem odd to me because they were family and that's what families do. I know now that they had learned to watch each other without really knowing that they were doing it. There must have been tremendous comfort in knowing that they only had to be half on guard because their buddy had the other half. And being half on guard somehow allowed them to "look like" they were functioning okay. But away from each other...feeling alone in the world...they were fully on guard and that is a very different story.

    The earth began to crumble out from below us when we were medically separated from the Army and moved across 3 states home to San Diego. It was here that everything fell apart. He would stay awake for days..."watching". Watching what I had no clue. The San Diego fires that first year home didn't help at all. We were 5 short minutes away from homes that had to be evacuated and I was told that he HAD to watch. Then there were days that he did nothing but sleep.

    Stop signs and red lights have been run straight through without a second thought. Toys have been thrown. On occasion, the dogs have taken a foot to the ribs for no real reason at all. I ask, then remind, then nudge...seldom do I yell out loud, but I definitely scream inside my head daily. Most of the time I'll start doing whatever it was I asked him to do and then I get, "Oh, yah. I forgot." and I forgot 3 times?

    Sometimes I think it is my fault things are this way. After all he didn't "show" the unruly behaviors at home until after a year of being back in the states. I took him away from his battle buddies when I insisted we move home near "family". But at that time I didn't realize just how very important the family was that we were leaving behind.

    I think about moving back to CO almost daily. But most of his buddies have also moved back to their home states. I wish I had enough money to buy a compound and build them all houses near each other. I wish he was never medically discharged, so he was permanently "stuck" to his buddies. I wish it was as easy to rock him to sleep as it was our daughter. I wish I could blow away the fog that seems to linger in his head. I wish life was normal...I find myself wishing for a lot of things these days.

  2. You did what was right, like you said those guys moved on after a year or less and you had to go home to have the support YOU need. You are a Combat PTSD Caregiver, read the first two years of this website.

    It talks about the combat vet from my perspective and education in psychology, sociology and social work. I am here to teach and educate the Combat PTSD Home about itself, it is a unique animal - it can be tamed after much work, prayer and can be maintained by community.

    The Combat Vet can have support where he is; veterans are everywhere he has to go to them or have them come to him first if necessary. Maybe have one of his family members come live with you for a while to help.

    Enlist the aid of your community - do not have one - get one you will not make it without it. Much in the same way the guys took care of each other on post, the community can withstand much more than the individuals could separately.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee