Best Of, Blogishness, ptsd, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Uncategorized

Military Discipline and PTSD

military discipline ptsd

What sets a combat veteran apart from others who suffer from PTSD is in the background of the trauma. While you don’t have to be in a war zone to have PTSD, the trauma related to a war zone is a far different one from other causes of PTSD. This isn’t to diminish the real life suffering and psychological effects of non-combat PTSD suffers; however, there is a far greater prevalence of PTSD as a result of combat than any other singular form of trauma.

Military lifestyle

One of the first major differences is in the entire lifestyle of those in the military. Regardless of what service you are attached to, be it Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marine from the moment you wake up to the when you hit the pillow at the end of the day (or days later) you have certain requirements that non-military people do not. Your life in the military is regulated every moment of every day; from when you can eat, to how your dress, to your physical fitness, to who you talk to and how you address other military personal. This is something that very few non-military people can relate to. Even in a combat zone, certain regulations must be upheld either as a security measure or as a result of a policy put in place by someone in command. For example, it is required that all lower enlisted soldiers stop and salute a higher ranking officer upon coming in contact with them. In a combat zone, this is not only frowned upon but can be seen as a hostile action towards the officer in questions otherwise known as “sniper checking.” The reason for this is that in a combat environment, you never know when a hostile enemy can be watching you. As a result this non-combat curtesy can let the enemy know who is a better target should they need to or want to attack. This is just an example of the many rules, regulations, and standard operating procedure that is the daily life of someone in the military.

Where lifestyle meets life altering event

While this strict regulation may seem harsh or unnecessary to those outside the military; this is the everyday culture that has been in place for many generations. However, when things go south these regulations kick in. The term conditioning comes into play a lot when it comes to the military and their training. The ultimate goal of any combat or even non-combat training is to make the process as easy and repeatable as possible. This way when a soldier enters into a high stress situation such as combat their instincts take over and the conditioning allows them to do whatever needs to be done with little or no thought towards what has to be done. This secondary high functioning brain as it may be called is like a back-up system. For many people, they will go their whole lives not having to deal with a situation that requires this need but for anyone that has to deal with life and death situations such as nurses, firefighters, or in this case a combat soldier, this secondary brain is the key to survival. However, as a result of this the primary brain has to deal with everything that happens when the secondary brain kicks in. Think of it in terms of a computer with two operating systems. In the event that the first operating system crashes, the secondary kicks in to get the primary back up and going. However, once the primary is back up you still have to deal with the issue that caused the crash in the first place.

Return to civilian life

This is where things start to fall apart for most combat soldiers. With the combination of factors addressed above on top of general societal factors; that can be all together foreign for someone who’s spent the majority of their adult life in the military, it is no wonder that many of these individuals have extensive problems once they are out. Even non-PTSD vets have a hard time adjusting to general civilian life. Add to it the stress, anxiety, guilt, etc. that accompanies having survived a combat related trauma makes it an almost impossible task for anyone to deal with alone. Additionally, because of the conditioning mentioned above, their brain can and sometimes does shift into secondary mode when there primary brain cannot handle a situation. This is often where “flashbacks” or violent reactions come into play for some people.


Suffering from PTSD is never a walk in the park for anyone. For a combat veteran it is a whole different ball game. Between the general PTSD trauma, the conditioning, and change in lifestyle from military to civilian many veterans suffer as a result. Thankfully there are a number of programs out there to address these individuals, however, until our societal views and beliefs related to psychological problems changes we can only do so much.

Picture: Flickr/DVIDSHUB

Best Of, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

I Will Never Accept Defeat. I Will Never Quit: Love and War

i will never accept defeat i will never quitThinking of the Army code, “I will never accept defeat.  I will never quit.” brings to mind the famous story of the Battle of the Bulge, fought in World War Two.  American forces were defending the town of Bastogne, Belgium, and found themselves suddenly surrounded by a vastly superior force of Germans. The Americans were cut off from food, ammunition and replacements.

For many days, they held off the onslaught of the German hordes, until on December 22, 1944, a German party, under a flag of truce, delivered a long letter to the American commander, General Anthony McAuliffe. The letter boasted of the strength of the German Forces that trapped him in the city.

“To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town.”

It went on to threaten even greater military action that would annihilate the US troops. The American commander would be given two hours to consider the terms of surrender, then one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A.A. Battalions would begin firing on the U.S. position.

The situation was hopeless and General McAuliffe had no doubt what he must do. It didn’t take him two hours to draft his reply to the German commander. He dictated the letter to his typist and his aide delivered it promptly to the German party. The Germans were baffled when they unfolded the letter and saw only one single word written there: “NUTS!”  General McAuliffe was never a man to swear, and his reply was another way for him to say “Go To hell!”  That one word summed up the Army code that General McAuliffe had learned as a young man at West Point; it was his way of saying, “I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.”  He wasn’t jut about to surrender his troops to the German army, no matter how vastly greater or superior they claimed to be.  This is why every American soldier memorizes these words, and it’s what turns them into a member of the toughest, most dedicated fighting force in the world—and it’s why General McAuliffe and his troops were able to hold the town until they were finally reinforced by the 4th Armored Division on December 26th.

It is because of this code that young men and women have carried on in difficult, frightening battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what about after the battles are over and these heroes put military life behind them? Can they use these words as a philosophy to guide them through the challenges of the rest of their lives?

How many people give up too easily on the most important things in life – love, wealth, health? How many relationships have failed because people find the compromise and dedication it takes to keep a marriage going is too hard? How can love survive if people give up too easily when things get rough? A soldier, or anyone who remembers the Army code and follows it, can work out the toughest marital problems.

When a former-soldier enters the business world, the code that he took to heart will carry him through when things start looking hopeless. The determination to never surrender doesn’t mean that the person needs to succumb to stubborn stupidity. If one thing isn’t working, a smart businessman will try something else, even if it means going back to school to learn a new trade. The important thing for him to remember is to never give up – never stop trying.

The same thing applies when it comes to his health. As the years roll by, it becomes harder and harder to keep in shape. The muscles of even the strongest athlete will wither, but the important thing is to keep the grit and have the guts to keep going. Changing life habits – dieting, smoking, drinking, drug abuse – all of them are hard but a soldier is trained to call on a team if he needs to and a soldier is trained to never quit trying.

No one is ever guaranteed success if he keeps trying, but everyone is guaranteed failure if he gives up. All of life is a struggle, and it’s meant to be. The soldier who carries the code “I will never accept defeat.  I will never quit.” with him throughout his life will find the strength to face all obstacles, big or small.

To learn more about the military war-time experience check out the following book:

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