Returning home from a combat zone can present its own set of challenges. A veteran may wrestle with a mix of feelings—relief and joy perhaps tinged with guilt at having survived when others didn’t. Some might feel that they should still be with buddies who remain overseas. These emotions can be exacerbated when wounds, physical or mental, are involved. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen an increase in cases of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Military health-care providers and families are still learning new methods for dealing with these terrible byproducts of war.
While past issues of Proceedings have examined various aspects of military medicine such as the VA system or advances in prosthetics, this month we turn our focus to the so-called “hidden” wounds of war—those not visible on the surface but which may affect a veteran as he or she tries to reintegrate, either with their families or back into civilian careers. It will be no surprise that the theme of our stories on the topic is support: from peers, families, the military, and civilian organizations.
Many of our readers have no doubt seen the numerous reports on the tragic rise in suicides among the active-duty and recently discharged military, including National Guard and reservists. As this baffling and frustrating issue draws ever more attention and study, Army Major Todd Yosick and Dr. David Brown bring their extensive backgrounds in psychology to bear and assert that peer-to-peer support programs in the armed forces are extremely effective—and perhaps underutilized. These programs not only build stronger families and units, but also enhance military readiness.
In our August issue, retired Marine Corps Major General Matthew Caulfield told us about a program started by the Corps to find jobs for transitioning Marines. This month, Dr. Nathan Ainspan, a civilian psychologist for the Army, expands on the importance of employment. He says that among veterans returning to civilian life, psychological injuries present more of a barrier than physical disabilities when it comes to finding work—usually because of unspoken fears and biases on the part of employers. But getting a job can be a key to treatment: studies show that employment can have almost the same effects as medication but without the negative side effects. Dr. Ainspan also provides valuable information on employment and educational resources available to wounded veterans.
Finally, Dr. Jaine Darwin focuses on the sometimes invisible victims of war: the families. As one of the founders of Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists, she believes that spouses and children of deployed reservists and National Guard members are an underserved population. Families living far from a large military installation may lack access to the available assistance programs. Family members can also sometimes feel a sense of isolation if they are the only ones in the community with a loved one overseas. Multiple deployments affect the resilience of many families in negative ways. Dr. Darwin outlines programs that can help these citizen soldiers reintegrate into their homes and society.
The Center for Naval Analyses caused quite a stir last year with its study “The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake?” In fact, longtime Proceedings contributors Captain George Galdorisi and Scott Truver analyzed the study in the October issue, choosing a “Two-Hub” Navy as its most viable strategic alternative. This month, Dr. Dan Whiteneck, one of the study’s architects, teams with retired Navy Commander Bryan Clark, head of the Strategy Branch in the Naval Warfare Integration Group, to go a step further in sounding the alarm for the U.S. Navy to chart a sound course or lose its role in exerting global sea power in the future. Bolstering their analysis are four more sea power swamis—Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, Dr. Thomas Hone, retired Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, and Captain Henry J. Hendrix—who paint a vivid picture of the future global strategic and economic landscape, and what the Navy can do to meet the formidable challenges ahead—without tipping. The options they present provide much to like—but also much to debate in light of the coming budget battles.