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  1. #1 Survivor's Guilt Haunting the Military 
    Senior Member txradioguy's Avatar
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    On March 31, 2011, Clay Hunt, a 28-year-old Marine veteran who had served with great honor in Iraq and Afghanistan, receiving a Purple Heart, finally succumbed to the psychological fallout of that service, killing himself in his Sugar Land, Texas, apartment.

    Hunt, a leading voice in helping other veterans get psychological help, had struggled publicly with the demons of war, especially the loss of four friends in his platoon.

    “Two were lost in Iraq, and the other two were killed in Afghanistan,” his mother, Susan Selke, told the Houston Chronicle. “When that last one went down, it just undid him.”

    Suicide rates are up across all branches of the military, even the National Guard, where the rate has increased 82 percent since 2009.

    Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—marked by distressing, intrusive traumatic memories, flashbacks and a feeling of extreme emotional detachment from others—is one of the reasons. “Survivor’s guilt” of the kind Clay Hunt experienced is a particular manifestation of PTSD.

    Survivor’s guilt is a psychological syndrome in which someone believes he has done wrong by surviving a traumatic situation that claimed the lives of others. It was prominent in survivors of Nazi concentration camps who came to believe—irrationally—that they must have lacked courage or been otherwise morally flawed in order to have lived through the horrors that brought death to their spouses or children or parents or friends.

    Those with survivor’s guilt can torture themselves with unfair, unending questions like whether they could or should have done more to prevent catastrophe befalling those they cared deeply about, whether they should have offered themselves instead, whether their ability to avoid being killed was actually due to self-interest, or a willingness to curry favor with the enemy, or blind luck of which they were very undeserving.

    Perhaps some of these questions plagued Clay Hunt. Maybe they plagued many of the other veterans who have taken their lives after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe many are more hobbled by guilt than by terror, awakened in the night not by flashbacks to their own near-death experiences, but to the deaths of others; not by terror, but by guilt—by the very fact that they somehow do not deserve to be alive, even that others died because of something lacking in them.

    Survivor’s guilt is like empathy or selflessness gone awry, twisted back on itself until it becomes a dagger through the heart or a bullet through the brain. It is testimony to how the best qualities of the human soul can be made malignant by psychological trauma.

    We are, it turns out, exquisitely—miraculously—sensitive creatures. We can care deeply about our fellow man. And, while we would never trade our sensitivity for callousness, that sensitivity also makes us vulnerable to psychiatric illness.

    This is the way that some of the best of us, heroes like Clay Hunt, come to believe we are reprehensible, rightly guilty, worthy of scorn, representing the worst of us. This is the way that such valuable lives as Hunt’s are lost long after distant battles have ended.

    It is time that the U.S. military, which has focused far too much attention on concepts, actually designed to make soldiers feel less--like desensitization and learned optimism—begins to join soldiers in the spiritual, moral and emotional journeys that begin when they return home and feel so much more.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/0...ry/?test=faces
    In Memory Of My Friend 1st Sgt. Tim Millsap A Co, 70th Eng. Bn. 3rd Bde 1st AD...K.I.A. 25 April 2005

    Liberalism Is The Philosophy Of The Stupid

    To Achieve Ordered Liberty You Must Have Moral Order As Well

    The libs/dems of today are the Quislings of former years. The cowards who would vote a fraud into office in exchange for handouts from the devil.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member txradioguy's Avatar
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    I've never thought of it as a manifestation of PTSD...but I've definately had times...both here and in IRaq when friends have died and I've wondered how I got so lucky to survive and they haven't.
    In Memory Of My Friend 1st Sgt. Tim Millsap A Co, 70th Eng. Bn. 3rd Bde 1st AD...K.I.A. 25 April 2005

    Liberalism Is The Philosophy Of The Stupid

    To Achieve Ordered Liberty You Must Have Moral Order As Well

    The libs/dems of today are the Quislings of former years. The cowards who would vote a fraud into office in exchange for handouts from the devil.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member malloc's Avatar
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    I don't *think* I had any of these problems. There were some people who thought I was 'emotionally detached', but what that really meant was that I didn't want to discuss every detail of every second of my deployment with them, and they got butt hurt about it, so naturally I was the one with the problem, right? I thought those people wanted to be entertained with stories more than they wanted to "understand". Besides if they really wanted to "understand", it's not like the recruiting offices had closed, or Iraq had moved to Mars or something.

    Shortly after we came back, something very bad like the article described happened to a very good Marine I was close with, only it wasn't so cut and dried as the article would spell it out. I don't want to go too much into it, but I want to make a point. That event, after we were supposed to be home, safe and celebrating did more damage to my mental well being than anything Iraq could throw at me. It stands to reason that for every soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine who succumbs to survivors guilt, there would be several with some sort of, "Why the f*$k didn't he call me before doing this?" guilt.

    The only other problem I had, and this one isn't even so bad, was the inability to 'stand down' or 'turn off' for quite a while after I got home. I slept weird hours, and I always felt like there was something important I should be doing, or there was something important I had forgotten to do, even if I was watching a game at a bar on a Saturday. My dad, a Vietnam vet, told me it would pass eventually, and it did, it took long a time, but it just worked itself out. The upside to whatever condition it is that I describe in this paragraph is that you will never leave your oven or iron on. You'll check it 20 times before you step out the door, get in your car, start the engine, get out of the car, and then go back and check it all again, then actually leave. :)
    "In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
    —Thomas Paine, Common Sense
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  4. #4  
    Senior Member txradioguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by malloc View Post
    I don't *think* I had any of these problems. There were some people who thought I was 'emotionally detached', but what that really meant was that I didn't want to discuss every detail of every second of my deployment with them, and they got butt hurt about it, so naturally I was the one with the problem, right? I thought those people wanted to be entertained with stories more than they wanted to "understand". Besides if they really wanted to "understand", it's not like the recruiting offices had closed, or Iraq had moved to Mars or something.
    I agree about folks that haven't deployed wanting to be "entertained" by stories we tell. And frustrated when we don't oblige.

    If you weren't there or you haven't been downrange at any time in your life you don't unerstand is how I look at it.

    M wife learned far more about where I was and what I did by merely sitting at a table with some guy sform my unit and listening to us talk.

    Same thing goes for soldiers who haven't deployed either. The could learn a lot just sitting and listening.

    Shortly after we came back, something very bad like the article described happened to a very good Marine I was close with, only it wasn't so cut and dried as the article would spell it out. I don't want to go too much into it, but I want to make a point. That event, after we were supposed to be home, safe and celebrating did more damage to my mental well being than anything Iraq could throw at me. It stands to reason that for every soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine who succumbs to survivors guilt, there would be several with some sort of, "Why the f*$k didn't he call me before doing this?" guilt.
    There is also the "suck it up and drive on" mentality that we have to overcome as well.

    I'm guilty of having that outlook on my own self while at the same time telling my soldiers to get help if they start having issues.

    There are a lot of old school grunts that are afraid if they admit they are having issues or not feeling right inside after a deployment it will fuck up their promotions or that their leadership will think they are weak and unreilable.

    The only other problem I had, and this one isn't even so bad, was the inability to 'stand down' or 'turn off' for quite a while after I got home. I slept weird hours, and I always felt like there was something important I should be doing, or there was something important I had forgotten to do, even if I was watching a game at a bar on a Saturday. My dad, a Vietnam vet, told me it would pass eventually, and it did, it took long a time, but it just worked itself out. The upside to whatever condition it is that I describe in this paragraph is that you will never leave your oven or iron on. You'll check it 20 times before you step out the door, get in your car, start the engine, get out of the car, and then go back and check it all again, then actually leave. :)
    Driveing was an adventure for anyone riding with me when I got back from Iraq. Especially rememebr that I had to once again start obeying traffic lights and stop signs. :D

    There were some confused looks when I'd move to the center of the road when there was a bag of trash on the shoulder too.

    I still to this day when I drive anywhere...am constantly checking the mirrors. My head is on a swivel when we're in large crowds walking anywhere too.

    Some habits are harder to break than others I guess. :o
    Last edited by txradioguy; 04-19-2011 at 04:47 AM.
    In Memory Of My Friend 1st Sgt. Tim Millsap A Co, 70th Eng. Bn. 3rd Bde 1st AD...K.I.A. 25 April 2005

    Liberalism Is The Philosophy Of The Stupid

    To Achieve Ordered Liberty You Must Have Moral Order As Well

    The libs/dems of today are the Quislings of former years. The cowards who would vote a fraud into office in exchange for handouts from the devil.
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  5. #5  
    Senior Member malloc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by txradioguy View Post
    M wife learned far more about where I was and what I did by merely sitting at a table with some guy sform my unit and listening to us talk.
    Pretty much the same thing here. Also, I'd never heard my dad talk about his Vietnam combat experiences until after I'd come home. I'd heard his other stories, but not anything combat related.

    Quote Originally Posted by txradioguy View Post
    There is also the "suck it up and drive on" mentality that we have to overcome as well.

    I'm guilty of having that outlook on my own self while at the same time telling my soldiers to get help if they start having issues.

    There are a lot of old school grunts that are afraid if they admit they are having issues or not feeling right inside after a deployment it will fuck up their promotions or that their leadership will think they are weak and unreilable.
    I think this is mostly right. My unit was a reserve unit, so we didn't really have this kind of pressure. However, the Marine who had the problem was a grunt for 8 years before he got out, went home, and stayed in the Marine Corps through the reserves. When they make a transfer like this, they are attached to their reserve unit of choice, usually in their home towns, regardless of MOS, and are expected to cross train into the reserve unit's MOS. This is great for the reserves, because we don't get a lot of training time, and that time is balanced between training our warfighting skills and our MOS skills. So each grunt who transplants into the reserves after leaving active duty is a great resource to the unit. His former unit was part of Task Force Tarawa, and I think he regretted not being with them. I can't be sure though, because he never said anything about it to any of us.

    Quote Originally Posted by txradioguy View Post
    Driveing was an adventure for anyone riding with me when I got back from Iraq. Especially rememebr that I had to once again start obeying traffic lights and stop signs. :D

    There were some confused looks when I'd move to the center of the road when there was a bag of trash on the shoulder too.
    I'll bet driving was...interesting. I had a completely different set of problems with driving. About two weeks after I got back, I got behind the wheel of a car for the first time in almost a year. I didn't drive while staging, deployed or retrograding. I'd been a passenger, and A-Driver, and a gunner, but never behind the wheel.....then I pulled out into Phoenix traffic. I got into my first accident within a month. With the used car I just bought with some of that deployment money.


    Quote Originally Posted by txradioguy View Post
    I still to this day when I drive anywhere...am constantly checking the mirrors. My head is on a swivel when we're in large crowds walking anywhere too.

    Some habits are harder to break than others I guess. :o
    I don't know any of Marines who deployed with me who aren't like this, myself included.
    "In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
    —Thomas Paine, Common Sense
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  6. #6  
    eagleexpress
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    The things that those of you in uniform has to go through breaks my heart many thanks from a greatful American
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