Discipline and PTSD

Boot camp. Depending on the branch of service you join, it may last anywhere from seven to twelve weeks. Its purpose can be summed up with one word:  “Discipline.”  

On October 28, 2018, I was reading some posts by both active duty soldiers and Veterans on Rally Point. I just happened to see a picture of two drill instructors disciplining a recruit while they were standing over him. As I studied the image, like a bolt of lightning, I made this connection. 

Returning to my own days in boot camp, my mind began processing how we draw from our training and experience and the team mindset learned in squads and platoons to face whatever the current mission throws at us. It is the confidence we gain from the discipline we learn in boot camp that equips us to face gunfire, suicide bombers, landmines, and other dangerous enemy attacks.  

The most important job within the ranks of the military is that of the drill instructor, who is responsible for preparing lazy, entitled, youth for the worst scenario imaginable: Being taken alive by the enemy. His captors are not going to put him up in a five-star hotel and see that his every need is met. More likely, he will face starvation, darkness, beatings, solitary confinement, and unimaginable forms of torture in an effort to learn everything he knows about his platoon’s location and objectives. His drill instructor’s tactics will seem like child’s play; yet, they will be the single reason he is physically and mentally prepared to endure this treatment. 

Much has been said about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in recent years as we have become more knowledgeable and understanding of what extreme stress can do to our physical and emotional core. For those suffering from PTSD, the tour of duty has no end. One day PTSD takes such a toll that the discipline learned in boot camp is all that remains to keep the sufferer sane. 

The pathology of post-traumatic stress disorder reveals that the effects of PTSD spill over to the sufferer’s family, friends, coworkers, and caregivers. To effectively address the far-reaching effects of PTSD, pathologists must help the soldier again draw upon the discipline he learned in boot camp. Psychotropic drugs have failed to assist with PTSD. 

Simple pleasures of everyday life that his family looks forward to can send a PTSD sufferer into deep depression and withdrawal. For example, his children eagerly await the coming fireworks display. What they can’t anticipate is that beautiful display of power and light will send their loved one into a completely delusional state. The first “boom” immediately sends him back to a distant battlefield with guns firing, bombs exploding, and landmines tearing up the ground under his feet. All his senses are experiencing that battle in living color. He can hear the sounds, smell the gunfire, see friends taking fire, and feel himself running. It is so real that he retreats for “cover” from his family and friends.  

This behavior is very difficult for family and friends to understand. How can anyone fear fireworks? What’s wrong? What can we do to help? Why can’t you get over it?  

PTSD leads to questioning who he is. He sinks deeper into the darkness until he feels like he’s in a bottomless pit. Self-loathing thoughts scream to the soldier: “You are worthless. They deserve so much more. They would be better off without you. Why can’t you just SUCK IT UP!” 

The longer a soldier experiences these fears, feelings of hopelessness and distress, and the questioning looks from his loved ones, the deeper he sinks into darkness and despair. At some point, he will start looking for a way out. Suicide becomes a very real option in the mind of a PTSD sufferer.  

Eventually, the discipline that once helped may become his worst enemy. With no drill instructor over his back and no mission to pursue, darkness begins to destroy him from within.  Decades after discharge, without treatment, he continues to experience the same traumatic episodes over and over again.  

What loved ones must understand is, he doesn’t really fear fireworks; he is truly back at war. It’s as real to him right now as it was when he was actually engaged in the battle. There is nothing you can do except get him into a program with other Vets who understand what he’s going through.  

If you see these behaviors in your loved one, don’t wait. Call the VA Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or Text 838255 NOW! 

VA Women Veterans Hotline 1-855 VA-WOMEN

Women Veterans Eligible for Many Benefits

While female Veterans have access to all of the benefits male Veterans enjoy, including Veterans health care and pharmacy programs, educational benefits, compensation for disabilities, VA home loans, and job assistance.

“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

The hotline for women Veterans (1-855-VA-WOMEN) is the latest in a growing suite of hotlines the VA is hosting to make sure critical information regarding available assistance is quickly available to Veterans. Female Veterans may also visit the Center for Women Veterans for additional information and programs available specifically for women.

Other Available Hotlines

Other hotlines available to both male and female Veterans include a hotline for Veterans in crisis (considering suicide) and another for Veterans facing the possibility or reality of homelessness.  Veterans can receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.



New VA Analytics Program to Identify Those At-Risk for Suicide

suicide prevention
suicide prevention

On April 24, 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs introduced a new computer program designed to help identify veterans at-risk for suicide before an emergency arises. It was tested at two VA medical centers and has now been expanded to all VA hospitals across the country.

The analytics program studies veterans’ electronic health records to identify factors known to contribute to suicide, i.e., chronic illnesses, financial and social stressors, repeat hospitalizations, life and relationship changes, and certain health problems. The goal is for the local VA health center to step in and over help to prevent these issues from escalating to suicide.

The approach will include engagement, building trust, and making sure their financial and emotional needs are met, bringing them back from the edge of disaster.

The program has already identified 6,400 of the most high-risk VA patients across the country and brought them into treatment. The program is being called “Recovery Engagement and Coordination for Health – Veterans Enhanced Treatment” (REACH VET).

Many of the people identified by the program have never thought about suicide; however, the stressors in their life are known to culminate in suicidal thoughts. The VA is aiming to be proactive and help before a healthcare emergency arises.

Click here to review the original article. If you know anyone you think the VA should reach out to, please contact the local VA center responsible for that person’s residential address.