PTSD and Combat Trauma

Tick, Edward.  War and the Soul:  Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Wheaton, IL:  Quest Books, 2005.

Psychologist Edward Tick has written a poetic–and, warning: often painful–account of the struggles veterans face when returning from war.  Primarily through recounting the experiences of Viet Nam War veterans, he presents a history of how other cultures have brought their warriors back home to the community in a meaningful way–and of how our own culture does anything but.  Some may find his recommendations at the end of the book a bit too New Age-y, but don’t let that deter you from an account that strongly argues that we must place the spiritual damage caused by war front and center in whatever “treatment”–or better, connection–we might wish to offer to our veterans.

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Van Winkle, Clint.  Soft Spots:  A Marine’s Memoir of Combat and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

Clint Van Winkle was a Marine sergeant who flew into Kuwait and then participated in the first wave of combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).  In this very well-written memoir, he takes you back to his combat experiences via the most realistic literary equivalent of the psychological flashback I’ve encountered to date:  in one sentence,  you might be going with him down a street in the US; in the next, you’re going down a similar Iraqi street–and often not with good consequences.  The surreal quality of the literary device gives you an extraordinary emotional experience of what it is like to move involuntarily from the present into the past, so much so that it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not.  Van Winkle ends his book still struggling–yet still with the determination that he brought into combat and then refused to give up once he left combat, no matter what.  A difficult, yet in a way beautiful read.

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