Although the absolute magnitude of group differences on measures such as the BDI may appear moderate, the finding that 22% of troops deployed to the Persian Gulf reported at least mild levels of depression on the BDI compared to 9% of those who served stateside within the first year of such military duty is of clinical significance (p. 422)."
Amy B. Adler (1996), writing for Military Psychology, points out that soldiers experiencing the highest levels of combat stress were those exposed to dead troops and civilians, but exposure to their own fallen comrades, people with whom they had bonded, resulted in the highest levels of stress (p. 2).
The goals of the study were to identify the extent of PTS symptomatology following redeployment and to identify the relation between such symptoms and rank and type of traumatic exposure. It was hypothesized that soldiers who had been exposed to the most stressful types of combat trauma -- those involving death and wounding -- and soldiers of lower rank would be most at risk for stress reaction symptoms. Previous research found that rank is positively related to psychological well-being (Griffith, 1988) (Adler, 1996, p. 2)."
Adler's contention that stress is found at greater levels amongst those soldiers of lower rank is not contradictory to the findings of the first group, Sutker, et al., since minorities and women often comprise the elements of the lower ranks by virtue of education and economic factors. So, for this reason, the conclusions of both groups of researchers support the findings of the other.
The subject of the first case study we'll examine here is the case of Jesse, a 1967 Vietnam era veteran, who was involved in the fighting that took place during what has become known as the Tet Offensive. In addition to the Tet Offensive, as a soldier of war, Jesse has experienced the horrors of war: the bloodshed, bonding with his fellow soldiers and experiencing their deaths while in a military capacity that made it difficult to mourn those losses of friendship and camaraderie. By the time Jesse returns home to the U.S., to his family in San Francisco, he is a changed man.
Sometimes, the California terrain triggers memories of places in Vietnam where Jesse experienced traumatic events of war. Jesse struggles to between the flashbacks from Vietnam and his reality at home in San Francisco. The constant need to focus and to work to remain in the moment of the present while at the same time being haunted by the nightmarish scenes of tragedy in Vietnam have taken a toll on Jesse's physicality; he experiences poor sleep habits, disinterest in diet and exercise, and he is wary of the people at work and whom he meets socially. Jesse has no relationship, even though he has attended school to become a lawyer and he would very much like to begin a family. Jesse does not believe he can begin a family until he addresses his problems associated with the war.
Jesse's war time experience is consistent with the study cited by Sutka, et al., wherein Kalka found the high level of PTSD amongst individuals of Hispanic origins who were veterans of the Vietnam conflict. As a participant in the Tet Offensive, an event that caught the United States troops very much off guard, Jesse would have experienced a traumatic event resulting in the loss of life amongst his fellow soldiers.
Even though Jesse rose above his Vietnam level of education, it was only once he was back in the United States and in a familiar setting that he was able to do that. However, a post experience education did not serve to help Jesse past the experiences that caused him to manifest symptoms of PTSD, and his experience caused him to suffer socially in that respect.
Another soldier, Amos, who, like Jesse, was in Vietnam experienced a very different side effect of his experience; when he was at home making love to his wife, he was thinking of the war, and when he was at war, he thought about his wife. This is an avoidance mechanism that turns into a vicious circle for a soldier experiencing PTSD. Felix focused on his wife while at war to avoid the experiences and trauma of war; and vice a versa, because the experience of war, like Jesse, had left Felix affected.
Another solider, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, experienced the horrifying and traumatic experience of mistaking innocent civilians for insurgents, and killing them, including a child. Upon of return to the States, Felix finds he relieves the experience time and again and is unable to eradicate the memory of the event from his thoughts. He, like Felix and Jesse, is experiencing PTSD.
Each of the three men's cultural ethnic heritage made him both susceptible to the conditions from which they suffer as a result of their war time experiences; and, upon return to their cultural settings, they remain vulnerable because it is not consistent with the Hispanic machismo to, first, suffer the condition, and, second, to acknowledge that condition by seeking treatment.
Especially for a Chicano or Latino soldier coming out of a Vietnam war experience, the study of Hispanic social science was virtually non-existent at that time (Blea, Irene I., 1988, p. 1). Only since ODS, Operation Desert Storm, have studies been conducted, like the several cited here, that lend themselves towards understanding the Hispanic soldier as having unique needs in the aftermath of his or her war experience.
Steven B. Knouse, Alvin Smith, Patricia Smith, and Schuyler C. Webb (2000) discuss the culturally unique needs to troops in a journal article for Review of Business (p. 48). These professionals describe the present day military this way:
The U.S. military is perhaps the largest and most diverse organization in the world. With about 1.4 million men and women in uniform, the U.S. military, for example, is over 20% African-American (almost twice the U.S. population percentage). Moreover, 44% of the women in the military are minorities . Further, men and women are guaranteed equal pay for the same rank and service time. In addition, there are tens of thousands of different jobs in the military, each requiring a different skills mix. Indeed, the present composition and corresponding personnel policies of the military may be an indicator of what U.S. companies may look like in the 21st century (p. 48)."
They are, of course, correct in that a new approach to mentoring is essential in a military that recognizes the diversity of its troops; and this would be a finely targeted move towards helping to change the war experience for those minorities. It is important to recognize, too, that the events of war are traumatic, and that soldiers experience horrifying acts of brutal loss of life. However, the extent to which the soldier retains that experience in a way that impacts his or her life in a prolonged and emotionally devastating way might be somewhat relieved through a more modern approach to mentoring that acknowledges the diversity of the troops. In any case, the more positive support the soldier receives, the better emotionally equipped the soldier is to deal with the stressors he or she experiences.
Mary Beth Williams and John Sommer, Jr., closely examine the issue of ethnicity in PTSD. They say:
The nature of the survivor's ethnocultural ego identity must be determined during the assessment process, as noted earlier, ECEI consists of intrapsychic and external influences. The intrapsychic factors include personality, coping, and defensive organization, temperament, intellectual endowment, and affective expressions and cognitive controls. Interacting with these internal events and capabilities are the external variables: psychological trauma and related symptomatology, historical and/or current parental/family experiences and reinforcements, and the nature of psychocultural uprooting from one's country of origin and translocating to another -- often alien -- country or culture.The concept of illness behavior is germane to ethnic post-trauma assessment. The concept "describes the... way individuals monitor their bodies, define and interpret their symptoms, take remedial action, and utilize sources of help as well as the more formal health care system" (Mechanic, 1986, p. 1). Illness behavior, therefore, is a necessary concept in assessing people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds who have been adversely affected by traumatic stress (Williams and Sommers, Jr., 1994, p. 227)."
Dealing with the American soldier from a perspective of ethnicity is a relatively new concept, but it is clear that efforts are moving in that direction. The Latino and Chicano communities have contributed to the rich diversity of overall American culture, and these communities have experienced the loss of their family members in service to the United States through military service. They have also experienced the profound aftermath of those experiences once their family members return home. Proactive approaches to assisting these patriots by helping their family members receive the services they are both entitled to and deserve is the only way to…