Iraq and Afghanistan: PTSD and G.I. Bill Reform

When the United States first declared War on Iraq in 2001, there was a tremendous amount of support for it due to the attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001. Many young men and women hoped to seek revenge on the perpetrators of the attack, and avenge the death of the civilians that died that day. While this is a very noble sentiment, the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has made it very difficult for returning veterans to assimilate into society. There are many contributing factors to the difficulties of this war, including the inability to distinguish innocent civilians from enemies, the lack of public involvement in the war, and the atrocities that are committed against civilians. To try and combat the difficulty that many returning soldiers are experiencing, the federal government has now amended the G.I. Bill another time, making it easier for those that have served after September 11 to acquire post was benefits, and transfer these benefits to their dependents.

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While the Vietnam War was protested by a very large amount of citizens as the war continued to drag out, there has been a trend of returning veterans that have been protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the most outspoken and widely recognized veterans is Thomas Young, who, like many young men and women enlisted to serve his country in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Within just five days of being deployed in Iraq, however, he was hit by a bullet that severed his spinal cord, and left his legs paralyzed. Since his return from the war, he has had a documentary called “Body of War” done on his life. This is an extremely eye opening documentary that has illuminated the struggles that he, like so many veterans, has experienced since his homecoming. He has since been divorced, is on thirty different types of medication, and has to use a catheter to use relieve himself. This demonstrates that even if one is lucky enough to survive the war, it does not mean that his problems have ended. In fact, in some ways the pain that he has experienced, and the suffering that his family has gone through has been prolonged by his survival. He was recently in the news again about a year ago, stating that he was deciding to let himself starve to death instead of continuing to suffer. While he has since changed his mind and continued living, the fact that he at one point considered death a better option reveals how poor his quality of life. As the financial toll of the war continues to skyrocket, one must remember that some families are paying much more than money. They are paying with suffering, as pain, fighting, divorce, and misery, which carry on even though the War in Iraq has ended.

Thomas Young
Thomas Young

It has been estimated that  19 percent of veterans returning from Iraq suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while only 11 percent of those returning from Afghanistan suffer from PTSD (Miller 908). While PTSD is present in all wars, it seems that many of the psychological traumas that veterans are experiencing during the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are caused by cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is caused by one’s behavior conflicting with one’s internal beliefs. An example of this is Garret Peppenhagen, a returning veteran. He expected to go to war and feel as though he was being heroic. Instead, he felt like “an asshole”, and claimed as though his service in Iraq had caused him to “[act] like a Nazi” (Gutmann and Lutz 16). He was unable to communicate with many of the civilians, and had to resort to violent and aggressive measures to ensure his own safety. He began to wonder what good he was doing during his time in Iraq, and has been psychologically damaged by his actions. Another famous veteran that opposed the war on his return home was Ricky Clousing. He saw many war crimes being committed during his tour in Iraq, and civilians being killed and harassed (Gutmann and Lutz 17). Ricky turned himself in for war crimes, and served a three month sentence in a North Carolina Brig. Both he and Garret are among a new trend of soldiers that are opposing the psychological damage that they have felt as a result of the war being classified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They instead insist that this is a natural human reaction to both the atrocities that they have witnessed during the war, and the guilt that they feel as a result of being a victimizer. Clousing claims that they are actually tapped into their human, spiritual and emotional side enough to feel the war’s effects on them (Gutmann and Lutz 18). They attribute their trauma to the dehumanizing orders that they must follow, and the unjust nature of these two wars. In this way, they are part of a growing number of veterans that place the blame on the government for allowing them to go to war in the first place, and on the military and its alleged corruption. Though this war has been protested by a significant number of veterans, the government has attempted to help psychologically damaged veterans, and increase the amount of coverage that veterans receive under the G.I. Bill.

One way that the government is attempting to help veterans returning with psychological issues is that the Department of Defense (DOD) has instituted a universal screening program to monitor the health, including the mental health, of troops returning from combat. The screening is a questionnaire given to soldiers that are returning home from their deployment. The problem with this is that it has been shown to be relatively ineffective. Some reasons are that there is still a stigma against admitting to mental health problems, the soldiers do not take them seriously because they want to return home sooner, and that their symptoms have not started showing because they have not been back long enough to notice them. Another measure that the federal government has taken in an effort to assist retuning veterans is to increase the amount of veterans that are covered by the G. I. Bill. A veteran is now more than likely eligible if they have “at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days” (http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp). This new amendment to the bill was passed under Barack Obama’s administration in 2008, as a way to reward the brave men and women who served their country after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The new bill includes a greater amount of both educational coverage for returning veterans, and the ability to transfer unused benefits to dependents (i.e. spouses and children). This is extremely important because it gives an even greater incentive to join the military. It allows a soldier not only an income to support their family, but the ability to use their educational benefits or weekly allowance on their children. Even though there has been debate about whether the federal government was justified in entering into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are attempting to do a better job of taking care of their returning veterans, and provide their families with better coverage.

When the United States first committed to going to war in Iraq, there was a lot of support from home due to the attacks of September 11, 2001. As time went on, however, the public seemed to have lost, and continued living their daily lives relatively unaffected. In fact, the people that seem to protest the wars the most were the returning veterans. The examples of Thomas Young, Garret Peppenhagen, and Ricky Clouse demonstrate the negative effects that the war has on returning veterans, physically, mentally, and even legally. They also help to illuminate that the problems do not simply end when a soldier returns from combat. A wounded veteran, psychologically or physically, must deal with the ramifications of their injuries for years to come. Even though the government has attempted to help these wounded warriors by implementing increased benefits from the G.I. Bill, and preliminary screening when soldiers return home, it is still a struggle for many to assimilate into society. It is impossible for a soldier to be completely unaffected by war, and with the lack of public awareness about Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems to make it more difficult for returning veterans to return to their ordinary lives.

http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asphttp://

http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/history.asp

Greg Miller. Widening the Attack on Combat-Related Mental Health Problems. Science, New Series, Vol. 313, No. 5789 (Aug. 18, 2006), pp. 908-909.

Matthew Gutmann and Catherine Lutz. Becoming Monsters in Iraq. Anthropology Now, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 2009), pp. 12-20.

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Economics of the Iraq and Afghanistan Conflicts

The conflicts in the Middle East, from an economic standpoint, have been far different than any previous war the United States has fought. Although projected costs of at least $6 trillion make the Middle Eastern conflicts the most expensive wars in U.S. history, they have been funded through a series of “Emergency Supplemental Requests” instead of being budgeted for under defense spending in the yearly budget. This has contributed to a lack of knowledge and understanding about this conflict that is widespread amongst the American people. Because our defense spending is low for war-time when compared to GDP, it creates the illusion that these conflicts are smaller and less serious than they really are.

Because the conflicts in the Middle East have been funded in a way that makes it hard to tell exactly how much has been spent on what, and because these conflicts are still going on, experts have a wide variety of opinions on the way they have effected the United States economy, and how they will continue to effect in through the end of the conflicts and beyond. Some say that, just like in most periods of war, war spending has allowed the economy to grow. However, others argue that because of the inefficiency of the spending, it has damaged our economy and contributed to the recession and slow growth experienced throughout the 2000’s.

The most obvious impact that the Middle Eastern conflicts have had on the U.S. economy is rising oil prices. Iraq alone accounts for 3% of the world’s total oil production, so turmoil there has caused oil prices to increase everywhere. U.S. involvement there has at times made it difficult or impossible for us to get oil from them, which is the main factor in the steadily rising gas prices and energy costs American’s have dealt with over the course of the war.

Part of the reason that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been funded so differently than other wars is because at the start of these conflicts, it was estimated that costs would be around $200 million and the war would be over very quickly. Obviously those were severe underestimations, as was essentially every estimation since then. Our government has gone through this war underestimating costs at every turn. This can highlighted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a government agency whose purpose is to provide benefits to wounded veterans. As of March 2013, almost half of the 1.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had applied for some sort of disability benefits through the VA. Because the number of wounded soldiers and the amount of money necessary to take care of them were both underestimated, the VA is vastly under prepared to take on that type of work load. Veterans generally have to wait at least three months to even hear back from the VA after applying for benefits, and most cases take at least two years to fully resolve, leaving men and women who were disabled while fighting in the Middle East to provide for themselves during that time.

Although the long term economic effects of the Middle Eastern conflicts are not readily apparent of widely agreed upon, it is safe to say that these wars have been economically inefficient. It has cost more than any war in U.S. history, contributed to the ongoing energy crisis, and has left thousands of soldiers in economic difficulty.

Sources

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/threads/the-iraq-invasion-ten-years-later/

Gender Roles: Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

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During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many roles changed for women. Women were given countless tasks in this war that they had never had before. Men’s roles stayed basically the same in the war zone, but at home some changed.

Women are becoming more frequent in the military. 7% of all marines are women and they are able to obtain 93% of the jobs available. In2009, the first all-female team of marines conducted their first mission in southern Afghanistan. This mission led the women to come into contact with the women in Afghanistan. A female team was sent out on this mission because it is considered culturally unacceptable for the men to interact with the women. Along with women in the marines, they also make up 15% of the army. In the army, women are able to obtain 95% of the jobs available. Jobs that are not available include direct combat on the ground. Though just recently there was a memo rescinding this law.

The original policy preventing women from direct combat on the ground was established by Secretary of Defense, Lee Aspin, in 1993. Although he stated women were allowed to train and assign on most combat ships and aircraft, women are prohibited from direct combat. In 2013, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta signed a memo rescinding that portion of the policy. Beginning in 2014, women are  allowed to participate in direct combat on the ground. With this being done, the percentage of jobs in the military available to women will increase by multiple points. In the army alone, 33,000 jobs are supposed to be opened up to women in 2014.

In comparison to World War ll, the strides made in women being immersed into the military are huge. During World War ll, women assisted in war efforts while on the home front. They stayed at home to take care of the house and kids, while sometimes having a job in a local factory. Women took over the roles of men at home when they were away. For the small group of women working with the military, their jobs mainly included nurses, secretaries and pilots. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan roles have changed drastically. Now, women are able to perform almost all of the same duties as men. Although women are not quite treated as equals yet, great strides have been made.

Few roles remained constant throughout all of the wars. In all of the wars, men have been involved in all aspects of the military. For centuries, men have fought on the front lines putting their lives in constant danger. While the men are in the war, most women continue to stay at home and take care of the children. Women send care packages from home in support of their loved ones away.

 

Works Cited

Women Marines Association. “Women’s Marine History.” Women Marines Association. Global Graffiti Inc., 2002. Web. 15 Apr 2014.

Army Women’s Museum. “Interactive Timeline.” Women in the US Army. U.S. Army. Web. 15 Apr 2014.

Burton, Monty, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. “United States Department of Defense.” Defense.gov News Article: All-Female Marine Team Conducts First Mission in Southern Afghanistan. American Forces Press Service, 10 Mar 2009. Web. 28 Apr 2014.

Communication During the Iraq/Afghanistan Conflicts

There are many ways families can communicate with their soldiers who are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes: mail, e-mail, phone, video conferencing, radio, photography, newspaper, and television. While some of these forms of communication have been used in previous wars, many of them have been improved a considerable amount. There are also a couple new forms that have not been used before in wars.

Mail

Mail is still one of the most popular forms of communication between families and soldiers who are over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with exchanging letters, care packages can also be sent. In order to mail packages to soldiers you need the APO and FPO military address, which allows the families to pay as if it were being shipped to somewhere within the United States, which makes it much cheaper. Regardless of what is mailed the arrival time remains the same. The window is said to be between 7 and 20 days, but on average it takes about two weeks. However, for holidays it takes about 3 weeks for something to arrive. The cost for mailing a postcard is $0.27, a letter is $0.42, a flat rate envelope is $4.95, and a shoebox-sized box is $10.35.

E-mail

E-Mail is a form of communication not used in wars before this one. It is much quicker than actual letters, but internet is required for it, therefore it can be limited. If one would want to e-mail a soldier they would need to have the soldier’s “Army Knowledge Online” e-mail address. It usually ends in a “@us.army.mil.” This “Army Knowledge Online” e-mail address can also be used as a type of instant messaging between families and soldiers if the family has an account of their own.

Phone

The phone is another incredibly popular form of communication between soldiers and their families during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The main source for soldiers to go and call their families is the Defense Switched Network phone centers. AT&T tents are also available on military bases for soldiers to make 15 minute “morale calls.” (Boots on Ground) Soldiers can also have cell phones but the “per-minute charges can be pretty steep,” (Boots on Ground) so instead soldiers buy international prepaid phone cards and use them. The other good thing about the prepaid phone cards is that there is no charge for incoming calls, therefore if a soldier were to call their family it wouldn’t cost the family anything.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is a way for “family members to engage in real-time video calls at various times.” (Boots on Ground) They are usually arranged through Family Readiness Centers, which are located on military bases. However, these centers only allow immediate family members to talk with the soldiers. Video conferencing is not limited to be between just family members and soldiers, it can also be used by generals. They can have “daily video conferences which outline daily missions and review strategy with field commanders, plus additional conferences with soldiers.” (Wallace)

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Radio

Radio is used more commonly between soldiers. It is a quick way for soldiers and generals to talk about their position, or the enemy’s possible position.  Soldiers can also quickly talk amongst each other while they are in any type of transportation. This includes tanks, jeeps, and planes. Families back home can also listen to radio stations and hear about what is going on over in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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Photography

Photography is a way for the general public to visualize the conditions the soldiers have to deal with while they are over in Iraq and Afghanistan. This could include the terrain and weather conditions, the cities the soldiers are patrolling, and the people who live there, and the soldier’s life while they are on base. Photography was also a sense of truth for the people of Baghdad when Saddam was killed. “Images were powerful in a culture used to misinformation. The only thing they really trusted was what they saw with their own eyes.” (Rieckhoff)

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Newspaper

The newspaper allows the general public to see and read about what is going on with the wars. It also lets the public read about different views and aspects of the wars. Many newspaper companies are incredibly biased on certain topics of the wars, which they hope will cause either a gain or loss in support of either war by the general public.

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Television

Television is one of the most popular ways for the general public of the United States to see and hear about what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also one of the quickest ways to hear about any breaking news that may have happened. “The Bush administration decided to enforce a policy that would ban news coverage and photography of dead soldiers’ homecomings on all military bases.” (Shah) However this was later lifted by the Obama administration. Many movies have also been made to describe certain points of these wars. Some of these movies include: Zero Dark Thirty, The Messenger, and No End in Sight.

All of these forms of communication are necessary in order for families to remain in contact with their soldiers while they off at war. Mailing and e-mailing allows for soldiers and their families to communicate in the form of writing, as well as send them anything they may want or need in the form of care packages. Television, newspapers, radio, and photography allow for families to see, hear, and read about the war. The phone allows for both sides to communicate in a verbal sense, while video conferencing makes it possible for both sides to see each other while talking. All of these things happen incredibly fast too. Something that has to be shipped can be there within two weeks and something that could happen electronically can be done within a matter of seconds.

Works Cited

“Ways to Communicate with a Soldier in Iraq.” Boots on Ground. 2014. http://www.bootsonground.com/iraq-communications.htm

Wallace, Joe. “How Military Video Conferencing Works.” howstuffworks. 2014. http://science.howstuffworks.com/how-military-video-conferencing-works1.htm

Rieckhoff, Paul. Chasing Ghosts: A Soldier’s Fight for America from Bagdad to Washington. NY: Nal Caliber, 2006. Ch. 19-22.

Shah, Anup. “Iraq War Media Reporting, Journalism and Propaganda.” Global Issues. 1 August 2007. http://www.globalissues.org/article/461/media-reporting-journalism-and-propaganda

Images Cited

http://coolmomtech.com/2012/11/3-ways-tech-can-help-troops-veterans-day/

http://chennaihams.blogspot.com/2010/06/anprc-148-multiband-interintra-team.html

http://www.acclaimimages.com/_gallery/_image_pages/0420-0908-3123-5928.html

http://obrag.org/?p=72151

 

Muslim Americans Post-9/11: Religious Persecution in the Land of the Free

An integral part of the ethos of American history is the story of the pilgrims who traveled to America on the Mayflower. These heroic figures fled England to escape religious persecution, risking the wilds of the New World to pursue the freedom to follow whichever religion they wished. This perception of religious freedom as being one of the founding ideals of this country is accentuated by the United States Constitution. The first line of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” (http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment). Following September 11, 2001, however, this ethos and the spirit of one of the most revered laws of the land was directly violated and assaulted in a manner that was reminiscent of violence against African Americans almost half a century ago. Muslim Americans unjustly faced discrimination and prejudice for their religion in the name of protecting a country that espouses freedom of religion and protection from such heinous acts.
Immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Islamic groups around the world began condemning the acts and disassociating the extremists who had carried out the acts from true Islam. Within a few hours of the attack, every major Islamic organization in the United States issued a joint statement. One part of it read, “American Muslims utterly condemn what are vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts” (Council on American-islamic relations). A joint statement was also issued by representatives of the 57 nations in the Organization of Islamic Conferences. “Such shameful terror acts are opposed to the tolerant divine message of Islam, which spurns aggression, calls for peace, coexistence, tolerance, and respect among people, highly prizes the dignity of human life, and prohibits the killing of the innocent” (Council on American-islamic relations). Leaders of predominantly Muslim countries throughout the globe also spoke out against the attacks, as did Islamic religious leaders. The stance of the majority of the Muslim world was clear.
This did not, however, stop the Islamophobic rhetoric from spreading in the United States. Famous Christian evangelical ministers spoke out vehemently against Islam. Franklin Graham delivered the invocation and sermon at George W. Bush’s first inauguration and was most recently in the news for claiming Barack Obama was an evil Muslim. Following September 11, he described Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion” (Peek). Jerry Vines, another prominent evangelical, was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He described the Prophet Muhammad as a “demon possessed pedophile” and asserted that “Allah is not Jehovah either. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist that’ll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people” (Peek).
Political leaders also made blanket anti-Muslim statements. Saxby Chambliss, a representative and future senator of Georgia, said that the best homeland security measure would be to “turn loose” local law enforcement and “let him arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line” (Vest). John Cooksey was a representative in Louisiana during September 11. He would later work in an ophthalmologist clinic in Baton Rouge. During his time in office, he stated, “Someone who comes in that’s got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around that diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over” (Vest). Popular political talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly both compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampf, and Michael Savage demanded a complete ban on Muslim immigration and construction of mosques, claiming these measures were necessary to save the United States (Peek).islamophobia-11
The FBI received 481 reports of hate crimes against American Muslims in 2001, the vast majority occurring after September 11. This was a 1,600% increase from the year before and is an incredibly conservative figure as it does not account for any unreported hate crimes or crimes that local law enforcement dealt with without reporting a hate crime to the FBI. Crimes included assaults, vandalism, arson, violent threats, and shootings. There were definitely 12 murders following September 11 with the sole motive being discriminatory, but there may have been as many as 19 or more (FBI).
Frank Roque was the first man to commit homicide in retaliation to September 11. His first victim, however, was not Muslim at all. He was a Sikh who, wearing the traditional Sikh garb of turban and beard, was mistaken for Muslim. He was outside of his house gardening when Roque shot him. He would then go on to murder three more innocent people, only one of whom was actually Muslim. When Roque was arrested, he was quoted as saying, “I stand for America all the way. I’m an American. Go ahead. Arrest me and let those terrorists run wild” (Peek).

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Mark Stroman was the second man to commit homicide in retaliation to September 11. Both of his victims were Muslims. The first was working in the convenience store he owned when Stroman burst through the door and shot him. Stroman would say after his arrest, “I did what every American wanted to do but didn’t. They didn’t have the nerve” (Peek).
Following 2001, hate crimes against Muslims have been between 100-200 crimes a year. While significantly lower than the number of crimes committed in 2001, levels have yet to come anywhere close to returning to pre-September 11 numbers. As one of the primary stories that forms the American mythology is of religious freedom, and the founding document that is held in such high regard contains religious freedom in a prominent position as the beginning of the First Amendment, one has to wonder what it is these anti-Islamic Americans are trying to protect. The political leaders, talk show hosts, and murderers all talk of protecting America and standing for America, but if it is not a land of freedom they are fighting for, what is it? If every citizen could answer this question truthfully and understand the fallacy of persecuting a religion in the name of America, maybe hate crimes against Muslims would finally end once and for all.

Works Cited:

Peek, L. A. (2011). Behind the backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Council on American-islamic relations, “American muslims: One year after 9/11” (report, Council on American-islamic relations research Center, Washington, DC, 2002).

Cornell, http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

Jason Vest, “Exit Jesse, Enter Saxby,” The Nation, November 12, 2002.

FBI, http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm#hate

Images:

http://hellemanworld.blogspot.com/2012/08/stop-islamophobia.html

Iraq / Afghanistan Effects on Marriage

Through the rapid increases and decreases in marriage, one thing can be said: each time period, and in association each war, has had its own unique pattern. Through the Iraq and Afghanistan War, another pattern has emerged: one of more stability.

Basics

This war is different in that it is current and still happening. Thus far, there have been over two million people involved with hundreds of deaths. Of the casualties, most have been soldiers 21 years of age from the eastern coast of the U.S (Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties, n.d.). iraqsoldiersOf those, the highest casualties in Afghanistan occurred in 2010 and the highest casualties in Iraq occurred in 2004 (Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties, n.d.). While many sources contradict each other, the average soldier for this war is between 18-30, which makes sense since they recruit in high schools and have older, more experienced generals.

Old Faithful

Marriage has reached a steady state compared to past wars. There was no dramatic rush towards marriage. This is because over half of the soldiers who have served/ currently serving are married (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). The others involved in the war were too young to be considering marriage because the current trends in society have shifted marriage to later in life where most get married in their late 20s. So, instead of quick, ‘shotgun’ weddings as seen in World War II and such, there is a slower, more consistent rate that changed little with the war.

Successful Tales

With every war, there are stories of successful marriages and there are stories of not so successful marriages. As is the case with Lisa and Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, it started out as the latter and morphed into success come the end. Chris Faris began his service in the Gulf War and later was part of the Delta Force in the Iraq / Afghanistan War. Sgt-Maj-Chris-FarisDuring the Gulf War, Chris almost died, causing him to face his death and the very real possibility that he might die. After serving, he came home a very changed man, very distant and calloused. As his wife put it, “Something had died inside of him and he was there. But he wasn’t there” (Married Special-Operations Troops Feel Strains of War, n.d.). He came back a cold person because he learned to feel nothing to survive in war. He then re-enlisted to serve in Iraq / Afghanistan where for the 6 years he served, he was home for no longer than 2 months. At that point, his wife insisted they live as roommates instead of spouses because reintegrating was too difficult to bear. Their relationship was strained and his anger was palpable. One night, while his wife and two daughters discussed American Idol, he said “Shut the (expletive) up. What is wrong with you? Have you no concept of what is important in the world? Do you know what’s going on? The three of you disgust me” (Married Special-Operations Troops Feel Strains of War, n.d.). After some time, Chris realized his mistakes and how he had distanced himself from his family. He begged his wife to give him another chance because divorce was right around the corner. Fortunately, she agreed and they sought counselling, a service the army successfully provides. This saved their marriage, and now Lisa and Chris travel around to conferences and speak with soldiers and veterans about marital strain and how to deal with it.Chrisfaris

Another success is that of Angel Stanley and Matthew McCollum. Their relationship never faltered, (at least in the major scheme of things meaning it never came close to divorce) mostly because of how Angel dealt with his return. When Matthew returned, one of the first things they talked about was his experience. She told him to “Get it off your chest. Tell me the worst thing you did” (Freedberg, 2010). When he told her, Angel said “Sounds reasonable to me. I’m glad you’re OK, now let’s move on” (Freedberg, 2010). In having him tell her the worst thing he did, it released the burden of guilt, and he no longer had to carry that around as a secret where he felt as though he would be judged if he mentioned it. This kind of relief could possibly be the best advice given to any returning soldier because it helps to rebuild the relationship and to start fresh.

The fails

There can never be success without failure as well. Marriages fail for many reasons but can be summed up as poor marriage quality. According to a study completed in 2009, marital quality in soldiers had decreased over time with the increase in infidelity and separation (Riviere, Merrill, Thomas, Wilk, & Bliese, 2012). This trend in dissatisfaction remained even after controlling for factors such as mental health, combat exposure, physical health, etc. ( Riviere, Merrill, Thomas, Wilk, & Bliese, 2012). This means that all of these factors had in some way an influence in satisfaction and consequently divorce. Higher PTSD rates were corresponded to higher separation rates and so on. On some levels, it seems the mental wounds left over from war posed more of a threat than any physical wound ever could.losing-on-the-home-front

Divorce

Divorce, like marriage, has reached a state of somewhat stability. There again was no dramatic increase in rate and was really not significantly different from the general population. For example, in 2001 there were 5,600 army divorces and in 2004 there were 10,477 army divorces (Baker, n.d.). Additionally, military divorce in 2005 had only risen to rates observed in 1996 (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). What these statistics reveal is that while there was a change, it was not significant enough to stand separate from time and regular trends in divorce. The highest rates of divorce were for females serving in the war. Between 2005-2008, divorce in army women rose 2% as opposed to men: 0.1% which is a rather interesting difference (Williamson & Mulhall, n.d.). The reasons for this difference are foggy, but perhaps husbands at home are less likely to deal with the separation well.

The fixings

Are these problems fixable? As Jeffrey Murrah (licensed marriage and family therapist) has said, these problems are caused from soldiers arriving home too quickly. He is of the opinion that men serving now get home so quickly that they do not have time to decompress and deal partially with their experiences, which is a major change from previous wars such as World War II (Baker, n.d.). Perhaps soldiers need a quarantine period where they can mentally regroup so as to avoid relational problems at home. This goes along with the words of Sven Wilson of BYU: “Traumatic experiences like combat seem to have a persistent impact on the ability of people to form and maintain successful relationships” (Baker, n.d.). Their experiences are so unlike anything dealt with by the general American populous that it affects soldiers to the core; those experiences combined with little decompressing time leads to strained relationships and ended marriages. A way to fix this would be to perhaps require counselling upon reintegrating into society. The stigma of therapy would have to be broken, but it could do a significant amount of good.

Work Cited

Baker, S. (n.d.). Marriages — Another Casualty of War?. divorce360.com. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.divorce360.com/divorce-articles/statistics/us/marriages—-another-casualty-of-war.aspx?artid=403

Freedberg Jr., S. J. (2010). Oral History Of Iraq & Afghanistan: Angel McCollum. National Journal, 2.

Married special-operations troops feel strains of war. (n.d.). USATODAY.COM. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/military/story/2012-04-24/military-marriages-special-forces-war-strain/54513768/1

Martinez, L., & Bingham, A. (n.d.). U.S. Veterans: By the Numbers. ABC News. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136#4

Riviere, L. A., Merrill, J. C., Thomas, J. L., Wilk, J. E., & Bliese, P. D. (2012). 2003-2009 Marital Functioning Trends Among U.S. Enlisted Soldiers Following Combat Deployments. Military Medicine, 177(10), 1169-1177.

Williamson, V., & Mulhall, E. (n.d.). Invisible Wounds Psychological and Neurological Injuries Confront a New Generation of Veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Retrieved April 15, 2014, fromhttp://iava.org/files/IAVA_invisible_wounds_0.pdf

Images Cited

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http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/military/story/2012-04-24/military-marriages-special-forces-war-strain/54513768/1

http://www.christianpost.com/news/losing-on-the-home-front-66327/

Effects on Children: Iraq and Afghanistan

The beginning of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq can generally be traced back to one tragic event: the infamous 9/11.  Although I myself was a young, seven year old child during this experience, I can clearly remember the exact moment, place, and commotion around me when I learned of the fatal terrorist attack, as can several other children of this time period. For children directly involved in this tragedy, such as living in a nearby area or losing close family members due to the attacks, studies have shown that the young children exposed are the most vulnerable of the entire population (Nauert). These local young children that had mothers highly affected by the attacks, such as developing PTSD and depression, were more likely to have clinically significant aggression, anxiety, depression, and issues with sleep (Nauert).  Also, losing a parent or loved one due to the terrorist attacks on this infamous day was completely devastating; news stories about this tragic, unexpected event plagued newspapers and television screens, enabling these young children to become overwhelmed and unable to properly grieve .  However, children across the nation still felt the brutal sting of 9/11, whether or not they had family involved or even completely understood such a harsh concept. Children, such as myself, knew that something dreadful and frightening had happened, yet they were unable to truly understand why. Robin Goodman, a New York City Psychologist, promotes discussion with the young people she counsels about their strong memories and fears of 9/11, claiming that this day will always be a defining moment within their young lives (Kalb).

After this national tragedy, wars began brewing right before these children’s eyes.  However, the general population of children found themselves living their daily lives similar to their previous pre-war days.  These children watched as honorable men and women in camouflaged gear left their communities and neighborhoods to go to a far away land known as “the Middle East”. Because the war was being fought virtually across the globe, children were personally unexposed to cruel and brutal battles. Along with this safety by location, the United States Government and media worked to further shield the typical American’s eyes by censoring news stories, photographs, and general information about the war (Arnow). Because these children did not have close family members writing letters home to them, they only could receive the white-washed information the government was providing them about these far away conflicts.

However, children of military families found themselves much more affected than the typical American child. For the first time in American history, the number of dependents at home, such as spouses and children, outnumbered members of the military in Active Duty and Reserve.  This would put nearly 2 million children a part of a military family, knowing no life outside of these recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Chartrand & Seigel).  According to research in 2009, this close relationship with the war can create several adverse effects within children’s behaviors and attitudes. 60% of military spouses identified increased levels of anxiety and fear when the child’s mother or father left for the war; much of this fear could be recognized within 47% of children, who were reported having increased closeness with other family members due to fear of even a brief separation (Zoroya) .  57% reported increased behavioral outbursts at home, such as tantrums and fits when and after a parent is deployed (Zoroya). Melissa Seligman, a military wife, vividly remembers the screams of protest and resistance from her toddler daughter, unhappy after learning her father would soon be fighting a war far away . As Seligman remembers these tantrums, she concludes: “I knew something was wrong with her…I knew this child felt deeply the loss of her dad (Fantz).”

Losing a parent can be challenging enough within itself; for these now anxious and fearful children, hearing the news of a parent or loved one’s death confirms their strong feelings of fear. As of May 2006, approximately 1600 children have fallen victim to losing a parent as a result of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (Chartrand & Seigel). However, physically losing a parent is not the only issue that may arise; several children welcome home a physically or mentally injured parent due to these wars abroad. Especially when emotional or mental damage has occurred, recreating a relationship with the once absent parent can be challenging and frustrating. In fact, even coming home as “mentally sound” as possible provides a strain within the parent-child relations due to lack of time spent together and changing personalities. For example, Melissa Seligman witnessed her military husband ask their small boy where his Thomas the Train toys were; after giving his father a look of confusion, the little boy turned away and began playing with a new set of toys filled with his new interests that his father was completely unaware of (Fantz).

Although the 9/11 tragedy that sparked the start of these wars impacted virtually all children, the general population of children has basically been shielded from the war abroad. However, children’s behaviors after losing a parent or having a family member involved has caused extensive research on how these children will develop over time, and how the war will continue to affect them throughout their lifespan.

Works Cited

Arnow, Pat. “From Self-Censorship to Official Censorship.” FAIR. N.p., Mar. 2007. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Chartrand, Molinda M., and Benjamin Siegel. “At War in Iraq and Afghanistan: Children in US Military Families.” Ambulatory Pediatrics 7.1 (2007): n. pag. ArSCA. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Fantz, Ashley. “War Affects Children in Unforeseen Ways.” CNN. Cable News Network, 13 Mar. 1970. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Kalb, Claudia. “9/11’s Children Grow Up.” News Week. Newsweek LLC, 3 June 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Nauert, Rick. “9/11 Had Significant Impact on Young Children.” Psych Central News. Psych Central, 2010. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Zoroya, Gregg. “Troops’ Kids Feel War Toll.” USATODAY. N.p., 25 June 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2014.

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http://www.theodoresworld.net/pics/0509/flagtochildImage15.jpg