One of the more unpleasant legacies left to us from the Vietnam War is PTSD. It is plaguing many Vietnam Veterans regardless of their country of origin. For the record PTSD is defined as: a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many Vietnam Veterans experienced terrifying events in that war and are paying the price still to this very day. Too often the payment comes in shorter lives resulting from living on the margin. They die prematurely from an assortment of maladies including injuries, accidents, suicide and homicide.
Fortunately American veterans are beginning to receive assistance for the PTSD condition from VA programs. Can’t say the same for Vietnam Veterans in other countries. The country of New Zealand is beginning to seriously consider the affect of PTSD on its brave veterans. The change in attitude is illustrated in an editorial opinion piece from The Otago Daily Times titled: Unhealed war wounds.
The editorial does a good job of pointing out the cause of the condition. In other wars like World Wars I & II fighting was conducted in an environment where the enemy was recognizable and there were definable “front lines.” Those wars had their own psychological hangovers like shell shock after World War I, or the numbed exhaustion called combat fatigue after World War II. In the Vietnam War combatants went into environments where the enemy could not be easily seen, where there was no frontline, while still carrying the significant weight on their backs and around their bodies their forebears knew.
The New Zealand RSA (Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association) is working to proactively identify the concerns and raise awareness about the realities of modern service and its PTSD hangover. The RSA believes New Zealand must support its veterans and their unhealed wounds of war.