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Coping with post-war stress

From CNN's Candy Crowley

For forces serving in Iraq, the war doesn't always end once they've returned home.
For forces serving in Iraq, the war doesn't always end once they've returned home.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It has had several names.

In World Wars I and II, it was called shell shock, or combat fatigue; in Vietnam, post traumatic stress disorder.

But the cause and effect was always the same -- exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened, resulting in crushing depression and anxiety.

And like the warriors of the past, coalition forces in Iraq are coming home to find that when you leave the battlefield, it does not always leave you.

"Some days I'm just sitting in my rack here, just thinking about what we did over the war, and those two bodies always stick out in my head. Or sometimes you dream about it and you just wake up and you're in a sweat," says Marine Sgt. Anthony Riddle.

In Iraq, Corporal Casey Brommer remembers the trip along the Tigris River to Baghdad and coming under fire.

"We called in with some artillery and some napalm. Some innocent women and child got hit. They came out. We met them on the road and they had little girls with noses blown off and husbands carrying their dead wives," Brommer recalls.

"That was extremely difficult to deal with because, you're like, what the hell do we do now?"

The Pentagon is taking steps to identify service members struggling to cope. Everyone coming home is screened for health problems -- including mental health which involves a battery of questions about psychological trauma.

Questions like, "Did you see anyone wounded, killed, or dead?"

"Have you had experiences that were so frightening, horrible, or upsetting ... that you've had nightmares?"

Army psychiatrist Col. Jim Stokes says, "It's probable more people are feeling it than are showing it. So many of these people feel they can't talk about it because everyone else seems to be taking it so well."

Getting troops into therapy isn't easy and it's seen as a career ender, a sign of weakness in a macho culture.

"When you talk to your other Marines, you want to try to sound hard ... It ain't no big deal. But really you're thinking: 'Oh man, it is a big deal'," Riddle says.

Though some vets suffer for years, most with medical help and family support are able to leave the past behind and go on to lead normal lives.


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