Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Purple Heart for PTSD? Good.

Before anyone feels a need to call me names or otherwise emote; I ask them to think a bit after they read the section about PTSD in Stolen Valor and note that my position has been consistent since before 2005.

No question, PTSD is real, but it isn't everywhere or everything. Like ADD, it is over diagnosed and over used in a therapy soaked (nothing personal T1) culture that in many areas is only comfortable with those in uniform when the servicemember is seen as a victim.

Tyler E. Boudreau, who as per his book Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine is not an objective source when it comes to PTSD, in the NYT last week makes some good and not so good points.
I felt that in a way they subverted the obvious intent of the Purple Heart — honoring soldiers who have been seriously hurt. But where to draw the line? Perhaps it should be awarded only to those who required admittance into a combat support hospital. “The Purple Heart deserves at least one night out of action,” I argued at the time. But my own commander stood fast by the rules, affirming: “A combat wound is a combat wound, no matter how small. So they get the medal.”
I agree; we need to define better and define consistently. We need to be careful to avoid being both stingy to the deserving and "everyone gets a trophy." As someone who due to some funky medical stuff post-DESERT STORM has been told since the early '90s that I have Gulf War Syndrome (I don't), and if I was honest in the forms I fill out, have PTSD (I don't, not even close) - I understand too well that we are over diagnosing both GWS and PTSD out of a well meaning desire not to let anyone slip through the cracks.

In that light, here is the bad idea. The last thing we need is another medal.
But there may be another solution — perhaps a new decoration, a new medal, could be established specifically for those suffering from post-traumatic stress. It would be awarded to those whose minds and souls have been sundered by war.

I urge General Eric Shinseki, the new head of Veterans Affairs and former Army Chief of Staff, to work hand in hand with the Defense Department to bring about some form of official recognition for these wounded veterans. The currentstigma of post-traumatic stres s would likely prevent many soldiers from wearing the medal initially, but its mere existence would help crystallize in the American — and the American military — consciousness one of the more obscure human costs of war.

I suggest we call this medal the Black Heart. Certainly the hearts of these soldiers are black, with the terrible things they saw and did on the battlefield. Certainly the country should see these Black Hearts pinned on their chests.
No, no, no, no.

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