How are these horrors any different than those experienced by the men in WWI or WWII? Vietnam? I have several uncles still alive who served in Nam. While two of them are relatively normal and well-adjusted, the other suffers from horrible PTSD and, as he puts it, “hasn’t had a full night of sleep in 40 years,” but he’s alive.
A very close friend of mine returned from Iraq in 2010 after 6 tours. He was a shell of the person I remember in college. He told me that they give these boys all sorts of shots and tests before they go into the field, but he was convinced to his dying day that they gave them anti-depressants and Ritalin to keep them sharp. He took his own life just 6 weeks after returning home.
I, of course, can not specifically address the case of your acquaintances, but I would venture to guess that in past generations, the typical servicemember was much more likely to have been raised within some type of structured religion. While there have always been those who could not handle the horrors of war, there have also been those who could not handle the far more mundane stresses of day-to-day living.
Those grounded in a strong faith tradition are generally speaking, better equipped emotionally, psychologically and spiritually to deal with extreme events.
The modern military is a reflection of the society and its members reflect the increasingly secularized population from which they are drawn.
I remember sitting around with him, my father, their other brother, a couple of cousins, and another young man from the neighborhood ~ we were having a beer ~ which at my age they shouldn't have been feeding me, but their talk was of my wounded Ranger uncle's shoulder.
They were passing me around from shoulder to shoulder, except my Ranger uncle ~ his wounds weren't quite healed ~ then my mother and grandmother stopped into the kitchen to see what I was doing.
That event and their faces and conversations are etched in stone in my mind. Forever young and strong and free. All of them had served in the war ~ no complaints ~ but yet my uncle's wounds were always of concern to my father and their friends ~ they never quite healed, and he really wasn't the same young fellow who'd gone off to be a soldier and answered that key question ~ "Would you prefer to mix cocktails at a party or go hunting"?
“... returned from Iraq in 2010 after 6 tours”
How did he accomplish that? Iraq tours were 14 - 16 months for Army, shorter for other services. He’d have to have done a string of lateral transfers or been on a rather unique assignment.
Do you know where in Iraq he served (base names)?
I blame General Order One for accumlating stress.
Work hard play hard was virtually non-existant in Iraq. It was just work hard 7 days a week, isolation, repetitive duties and frequent stressful situations (attacks and travel).
My uncle served in the Marines for WW II...doing island to island combat. He had various points where he had malaria, dysentery, and a couple of minor wounds. For them, it was simple....you were stuck in the Marines until you wrapped up the war, and then you could come home....end of the story. No second deployment. No third deployment. No fourth deployment.
I think sixty percent of this entire issue is the continued deployment right back into the zone. You continued to get dose after dose. The Army and Marines never had a real grasp about the mental side to their guys.
In my uncle’s case....he came back and was a alcoholic the rest of his life. He wrapped up the bachelor’s degree...complements of the GI Bill, and became a teacher. Eventually, he became a school principal. He did well for his entire life...the only one in the family to finish up college for that generation. But he was an absolute hard drinker for fifty years of his life after returning. He never talked over the war years.
A quarter of the teachers that I had in high school....were WW II vets. They never discussed their war years in public.
I will add this...a great deal of our mentality today in the military is about building friendships. Probably more so than the WW II years. So I think it bothers us to a significant degree when we have close friends killed in the line of fire...over and over.