More is coming out on Joseph Dwyer the Army medic whose photo (see below) made him world famous. He's fast becoming the poster boy for PTSD and the need for improved psychiatric services for returning vets.
My dad served in WWII, and although there were some men who came home "shell-shocked," most men re-adjusted fairly easily to civilian life, even after witnessing horrific scenes during their combat duties. What makes this generation so different?
I have my ideas on the matter, and Heaven knows, my opinion is never humble!
I blame the peace-niks.
My dad's generation grew up farming, butchering livestock, seeing people die from farming accidents, car wrecks, etc. It was a tougher population, a grittier set of young men who were sent to fight the nation's wars.
Moreover, military service was considered an honorable and even desirable civic duty for a man.
Since Vietnam, though, the peaceniks have done a damn good job of trying to sterilize our culture of their perceptions of violence and cruelty. "Don't give little boys toy guns! It will make them violent!" they say - "Teach them to love, and to be in touch with their feminine side - teach them to be peacemakers!"
If a little boy can get his hands on a stick or a pencil or any implement whatsoever, he's going to turn it into an imaginary gun. Boys like guns, and weapons, and technologies. It's a Guy Thing. Boys for generations immemorial have played forts - in England they play Knights, in the U.S. they play Cowboys and Indians.... or at least, they used to before video games created an imaginary genre to fight.
Maybe it's the video games that have made real-life bloodshed, sacrifice, and brutality so unbearable for our young men. It's okay to wipe out virtual bad guys of mythic proportions; when the bad guy is another human being, not a computer-generated character, then suddenly all the tacit perceptions of war and violence and the whole great big Game collapse.
No - I don't advocate teaching boys to shoot and kill. But I do think we sabotage their natural inclinations to fight bad guys and to be heroic figures even under appalling circumstances, in our artificially-generated and -defined virtual, peacenik culture.
God help us all.