Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

The Scars Beyond the Skin

Through the years, the United States has encountered many threats to itself and its allies. This results in many of its own men and woman as young as 17 joining the military to help defend their country and honor our people as well as its allies in need. For every war, thousands of soldiers are sent out into combat, leaving behind their families to wonder; will they ever truly come home? On record at least 50% of prisoners of war (POW) have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) PTSD is a disorder that occurs after a soldier has been in combat and recollects and/or dwells feelings, experiences, and decisions. It can occur in dreams, when one is awake, or experiences any sort of trigger that might result in a flashback. About 30% of the veterans that served during the Vietnam War have been diagnosed with PTSD and between the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom 15-17% have PTSD as well. Those are only the numbers of the few that have been properly screened and many of our soldiers go untreated and unseen. Many do not seek help for their trauma and see it as a burden they must bear in silence, as many of the past generations have taught us. It is no laughing matter, PTSD is a serious concern and can be dangerous for the veteran as well as the families and many around them. The current conflicts are hardly ever in the news anymore, the American people barely see what truly goes on behind the red, white, blue flag. The newest video games give similar situations without the raw experience of being next to a fellow soldier when they are suddenly gone from their lives forever.


These soldiers that go overseas are not just soldiers, they may march one by one but they have thoughts and morals. To take a life because of an order is different when it comes down to the life and death of your fellow Americans. For many, the ones they deploy with become closer than brothers and gain the trust that with that group of soldiers, they will be safe and protect one another. When the current veterans come home from their deployment, their families are filled with joy that the ones they loved are home safe. In some cases, their sons and daughters do not come back, or when they do they lack a heartbeat. For many that return, they do not return home simply unchanged. In the words of many, war changes a person and there is no way around that. PTSD is not a matter of strength or of honor, it is a matter of mental health and the security of our veterans. The current debriefing process for the average veteran that returns home is approximately 72 hours. In 72 hour they determines whether or not a soldier has been broken or not. Only 72 hours is supposed to give the government an idea of what a person has been through and exactly how it affected them. The person or persons that debrief a veteran ask questions such as: how invested are you in your group? What is a feeling? What caused those feelings? These questions are asked right after their return, the soldier can often still be in “survival” where their emotions are detached from their thoughts. Sometimes a veteran does not experience PTSD or the symptoms until years after their service. Yearly screening for all veterans would ensure their mental health as well as make sure that the government pervades the appropriate concern for the heroes that selflessly defend our country. In certain cases the government will pay for treatment and therapy, but not all. New and better treatments are coming out, a more recent method of healing is having an Emotional Support Animal. These animals, often dogs are trained to recognize when someone is experiencing stress, anxiety or when a veteran goes into a flash back. Another treatment is group therapy, where fellow soldiers can share their experiences to others that understand and have had similar feelings as well as experiences. Sometimes, these things just are not enough and medication is needed. We need to give proper support to the ones that defend our country and helping them heal is something that should be available to all veterans. If someone works at an average job and is injured, the work place usually pays for their treatment because it was caused by the job. Our veterans have a much more serious line of work, should not they be covered too?


It can be argued that there are enough support systems for our veterans, if they do not choose to seek metal help then it is their choice to handle it as they see fit. For the government to put more stress on screening veterans would be costly, the Veteran Affairs (VA) has spent an estimated 3.7 billion dollars in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in four years (Thompson). About 2.2 billion was in the treatment of soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, OCO, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.) An individual troop usually costs the VA $8,300 for the first four years of treatment for PTSD. It costs them $11,700 for them to cover the treatment of a veteran with TBI and for the VA to cover a soldier with both it costs them $13,800 in the first four years. Our government is still in debt and forcing them to cover the treatment of every soldier with PTSD, OCO and TBI from over the years would be costly. The costs of treatment and testing continues to rise from what it previously was, and there are many support groups already for PTSD suffering veterans. There are also programs that help soldiers pay for their treatment and they have better health coverage than most in the current economy. A soldier is fresh out of basic training makes approximately $1,500 a month while a four star general can make up to $15,000. The amount a soldier in the military earns per year depends on the job and how long they have been in serving as well as how long they are in active duty. Usually when a person first enters the military they strike a deal with the recruiter, a certain amount of years active and another amount inactive. Normally when someone is active they make more than when they are inactive, to be active they do not physically have to be overseas. A person in the military also gets medical benefits and coverage from working in the government. For active duty personal, retirees, Guard member and reservists as well as some of their family members there is Tricare. For veterans there is the VA, that covers a wide range of medical issues and concerns. How much a veteran or military personal is covered with PTSD, TBI or OCO depends on the coverage they chose and the deal they have made with their branch of the military. For the government to cover every expense for a PTSD patient would be quite costly, especially with the United States’ current economic position. They currently screen every soldier that comes home after serving overseas and finds as well as diagnoses PTSD suffering personal when appropriate for cases that need it. It is almost impossible to find every person dealing with PTSD and would be fairly time consuming for the soldiers and people screening them.

Treatment and diagnoses has advanced great amounts from the 20th Century, but for the ones that serve and suffer for their country they at least deserve the ability to live healthy lives to the best of their ability. If they have any problems mentally or physically from serving it is the military’s job to pay for their treatment and screen each soldier with the of most care. Veterans have put their lives on the line for the United States and should not have to carry the burden of the things they had to do in their jobs in the military through their lives. If they must suffer still, they should be able to get the best treatment options available to take as much stress as possible out of their lives as well as their loved ones. PTSD and TBI do not only affect the soldiers and veterans involved, but their families and loved ones as well. They must watch the one they care for most suffer from the scars that go beyond the skin. Not all wounds show, many hide behind smiling faces of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children of Americans. Many that return from serving seem like they should be joyous in their return, but no one will know what they have seen, been through and had to do in order to protect our country. PTSD does not only affect soldiers that have had to deal with things that personally happened to them, many are haunted by the faces of the people they were ordered to kill or some of the actions they were told to perform. For those who lost someone overseas in their squadron, the life of the soldier or soldiers that did not return will follow them for their whole lives. Everyday these men and woman must wake up and say “What if…” knowing there is nothing they can do to bring back the ones they lost.

For more serious cases, flashbacks can occur. These flashbacks can be caused by triggers or reminders much like someone that suffers from seizures. They cannot control when the flashbacks come or when they leave and there is not much that anyone else can do but wait until they come back to reality. In a case concerning the murder of Jacque Villagomez, a veteran with PTSD was accused with the murder of his girlfriend. John Needham went on record and told the press, "I was trained to kill. ...I come home. I can't adjust to regular civilian lifestyle," Needham tells. "I spun out of control. I needed help." He was then institutionalized after, he, like many after serving had come home and turned to alcohol for comfort to dull the pain he had experienced. On record, 121 cases regard PTSD sufferers and murders, 121 people who just wanted to help their country and serve their time that never truly came home. In the military, soldiers are trained to become machines and burn the fat off of their souls. They must take all that makes them an individual and put it away to become one of millions that have served. In basic training they learn to survive in harsh physical and mental conditions. Once they come out of that survival mode, the person that was once in them has been pulled apart and now struggles to put back together the life and the person they were before. These soldiers should not have to fight PTSD or TBI alone, many suffer more than any family member or loved one can help. Some suffer from realistic dreams, waking up in cold sweet, sometimes screaming and crying out in pain. How might one handle such complications without serious medical help from a professional?
Not all soldiers can pay from treatment and therapy on their own and simply convince themselves that it is just the cost of war. As with any job where an employee is injured in any way from the job they are asked to preform, the place of work usually pays for treatment and medical expenses. If they do not, the employee has every right as an American to sue the corporation or business to pay for their expenses. Why should the military be any different, especially when the cost is someone’s life and mental well-being? The veterans of every war with PTSD, OCO and/or TBI should not have to carry the burden of war with them in silence any more. There is no way to cure these veterans and soldiers, but the government should at least give them back as much if not more that they cost them. Not all wounds can be seen by the eye, especially among the ones who have been trained to “forget.” They will never forget, but their wounds can be healed with the right medical care that they deserve. The scars of war go beyond skin deep, there is no reason they should stay as fresh as the day or the moment they were made. There is no sure cure for PTSD, OCO or TBI, but U.S. should at least show the ones who have served, serve, and will serve that the price they paid will not be forgotten. The price for freedom will never be free, but it should not be only on the weight of the ones who give their lives for their country. Anyone with PTSD should be able to get the help they need to heal from their own wounds of war. This is not a price they deserve to pay alone.




Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!




Site Feedback