Series: Defining present-traumatic stress
Stars and Stripes
Published: September 2, 2013
About this series
Stars and Stripes examines the mental health of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and how they cope with war’s internal burden while deployed. Stories will explore the work of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and chaplains to reduce the combat-related stress of troops; the efforts of senior officers to balance the needs of soldiers with the demands of the U.S. mission; and the fear of asking for help that still exists within the Army.
This series is produced with the support of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.
Even living under the same roof, the Dwyers found the war dividing them after their unit arrived at FOB Shank in March.
In the era of asymmetrical warfare, when the demarcation between the front line and the rear echelon has dissolved like a mirage, the 'resiliency center' serves as an oasis, if only for the running time of “Bridesmaids.”
The soldier lay on a stretcher, his lower legs a mash of pulverized bone and blackened flesh. Doctors and technicians ringed his broken body. Chaplain David Trogdon watched in silence for an opening. Then he came forward and squeezed the soldier’s hand in his own.
The work of chaplains in a combat zone inspires metaphors that liken their role to a release valve or catch basin. They listen more than they preach. Those who cultivate a ministry of presence serve as roving counselors, adept at creating rapport, undaunted by four-letter banter and mindful that pressing religion on troops can halt conversation faster than a mortar siren.
The prevalence of PTSD has provoked questions within the Army about the wisdom of senior officers badgering lower-ranking troops to repress their combat trauma while deployed, and the unofficial code of silence, long regarded as a barometer of soldier strength, has drawn scrutiny of late as a doctrine that merely defers war’s psychological toll.