but we will forget their needs
The tough part is, uh...
Not knowing if you're doing any good.
That's the hard part
--The Thin Red Line (1998)
It is hard to imagine that an Army which fought in Corregidor, Bataan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guadalcanal, Anzio, Normandy, The Bulge, Huertgen Forest or the Imjin had a PTSD rate roughly equivalent to today's (with a PTSD evacuation rate of 10%, according to most histories.) This casualty rate seems appropriate for the intense level of combat sustained by those troops.
But have troops in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) experience those levels of sustained violence? All of the battles in the PWOT were small unit actions, not sustained significant battles. So why the high PTSD rate?
The questions arises not from malice, but concern. The answer seems to devolve to the questions of legitimacy and truthfulness. Regardless of the propaganda, the troops know the Truth. They see the poverty of the people, the meaninglessness of their mission, the corruption of the host nation's government for which they and their fellows die and sacrifice.
Our soldiers are sacrificial lambs on an altar of deception. They know they are not fighting for liberty and freedom, and it is this tension which causes the long-term stress. In the documentary Restrepo it was evident in the eyes of many of the soldiers interviewed.
They know that their service will change nothing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that is the rub -- so how do they deal with this understanding?
Our society must recognize the dire loss of fitness suffered by these soldiers and citizens. Forget compassion, but on a pragmatic level alone, we should recognize that some missions are not worth the effort, and that our soldiers are not unfeeling G. I. Joe's; while they may escape physical harm, they will not escape the mental effects of warfare.
Soldiers should not live or die in vain, and when we place them in a position of futility, we are imposing that nullity upon them. Moreso than the violence it is rather the meaninglessness of the entire effort that damages their psyche. The soldiers know that their lives means less than the mission; that's what they signed up for.
But when the mission means zilch, you enter the realm of the surreal. When the rational mind meets with that, you end up with a crash-up.