Local News

Military Helps Soldiers Deal With Mental Scars Of Combat

Posted August 18, 2004 9:53 a.m. EDT

— Many soldiers in war do not carry physical scars. Their wounds show up in the form of sleep problems, depression or domestic violence. The Army is helping soldiers deal with the mental scars of combat.

"It's sort of a shock to come back into an environment where there's not a whole lot of threat," said Col. Curt Fuller, commander of the Second Brigade of the 82nd Airborne.

Fuller is a veteran of Granada, Panama, Desert Storm, Kosovo and Iraqi Freedom. He knows what it is like to try to leave the war behind.

"Loud noises -- a lot of people were pretty jumpy when they first returned," he said.

Army psychologist Capt. Jill Breitbach said soldiers often show some symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

"Fighting at home with a spouse -- an escalation of that, increased isolation, tearfulness," she said.

Breitbach said the Army is better prepared to deal with the problem than ever before.

"We have more mental health assets actually deployed in theater with the troops, so that's something different," she said.

Army commanders are trained to look for behavioral changes in their troops. They refer soldiers to chaplains or mental health professionals. Officials said problems do not have to go untreated.

"There are medications that can help with the symptoms of irritability, depression, anxiety and sleep problems," Breitbach said.

Despite the medication, Fuller said nothing can erase memories of combat or the horrors of war.

"I think the tear you see in a lot of veterans' eyes is not just the memories of bad things that happened, but it's the pride and remembering, you know, what they accomplished and the people that they served with," Fuller said.

Fuller said when he returned home, commanders gave 82nd Airborne soldiers an unprecedented 30-day block leave. The unit he commanded served in Iraq for a full year.