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PTSD: Thirty Years LaterDr. Phillip Leveque Salem-News.com
Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician and Toxicologist.
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - Even the U.S. government has stated that Iraq and Afghanistan vets will have a thirty percent level of PTSD. This bears some explanation. It is estimated that about 1,300,000 troops have served in those areas.
If the ratios of front line fighters is typical of past U.S. wars, only about one in ten is a front line soldier or marine. That is 130,000 doing the actual down and dirty fighting. Even the tankers had much fewer casualties.
It's not known how many or what percent are in the Green or safe zone. However, the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, showed an Iowa National Guard outfit of about a thousand men who were escorting supply trucks into the battle area. They had only two deaths and about 20 wounded in about a year. Nobody said their job was a cake-walk and it is certain they were stressed out and scared to death of suicide bombers and I.E.D.s, probably most of the time.
Those troops will have nightmares for years with flashbacks.
I don't think rear echelon service compares with front line Infantry fighting, but I could be wrong. I'll grant urban, house-to-house fighting is different from most of what I went through and it is much different from open country fighting.
When I got home from WWII, after about four months of actual battle and 14 months of occupation duty, I got to work in sawmill construction and went to college.
I was still spooky about going into downtown Portland. I KNEW those cars, buses and trucks were really German tanks and when their brakes hissed or clicked or snapped, I knew it was the tanks ready to shoot at me or one of the German soldiers riding on the tank loading his sub-machine gun. I used to wake wide awake at night in a sweat when the wind made the house creak. I would frantically reach for my rifle which was never there and I would have to readjust my half-awake mind that the problem was twenty or thirty years and 6,000 miles away.
The worst flashback I had was thirty years later when I was practicing medicine in my small hometown.
We were two doctors and usually each one would see the next patient who still had his chart on the door. As things turned out, I might have been set up for this patient and/or his wife. Technically, I was supposed to be seeing her. She was only about 5 ft. tall and weighed maybe one hundred pounds soaking wet. He was at least 6'4”, two hundred pounds and I was told he was a Sergeant door machine gunner in a helicopter in Viet Nam.
When I entered the exam room, I was struck by the difference between the two. She was sitting and he was standing and he looked as if he was going to attack me.
I was confronted by him. He shouted at me, “You God-damned doctors don't know anything about war. I was a door gunner in Viet Nam and I don't even know how many gooks I killed.” This really knocked me back on my heels. I was still concerned that he might physically attack me. I could tell then HE WAS THE PATIENT and he'd probably had the runaround by V.A. doctors “who didn't know anything about war.”
“Sergeant,” I said, “you're talking to a World War II Combat Infantryman-Pointman. My worst day, my battalion lost 150 men, and my best day, me and a buddy captured 26 German officers. I think I know about as much about battle as you do.”
He stared at me, white-faced as if I had hit him in the head with a ball bat. Then he broke down, shaking and sobbing and was consoled by his little wife. I couldn't stay in that room. I walked out and into the john and bawled myself, for a half hour. With considerable difficulty, I got myself back together. When I came out, the Sergeant and his wife were gone. The office nurses, who heard the whole loud mess, didn't say a word. In fact, it was unreasonably quiet the rest of the day.
I don't know what happened to him. I knew I couldn't see him again without bawling myself. Yes, PTSD IS REAL.
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