Managing Executive Editor
Veterans coming back from war may struggle with assimilating back into the society they left, and Nancy Sherman, author of “The Untold War,” lectured about these unknown stories in the Mabel Brown Room on Nov. 30. Soldiers from war across history face challenges once they come back home, whether it be physical or emotional manifestations, Sherman emphasized the point that war changes soldiers. During the Vietnam War, soldiers came back with unprecedented accounts of trauma, resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now that the disorder is more well known, soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan can receive the help they need in the form of counseling or other medical assistance, but Sherman focused her lecture on what families and friends of soldiers can do to help the soldiers that leave them to go to war.
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“There are moral dimensions of post-traumatic stress,” Sherman said. Paul Vincent, the head of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies department, opened up Sherman’s lecture by talking about the types of injuries soldiers face during war.
“We see new kinds of injuries,” he said, as a result of IEDs, mortar fire, and explosives. According to Vincent, people do not know enough about soldiers’ experience overseas and the troubles they face coming home. “We must pay far greater attention to PTSD,” he said. The soldiers, he said, were the human face of war, who deserved more focus and our attention.
“There are many expression of injury,” Sherman said, and it doesn’t begin when the soldier takes off their uniform. Sherman spoke of survivor guilt or feeling as though a soldier didn’t deserve their luck if a comrade died.
“It’s dismissive to just say, ‘get over it,’” she said. Sherman also spoke about the resentment soldiers feel about civilians once they return, and it involves the gap in understanding what they experienced. Sherman used an example, a soldier who she talked to, who spoke about the conversation generated on social media concerning Joseph Kony and the viral campaign. The soldier told Sherman if the military would do something about it, “It will be our job. My friends will be buried. Don’t be so cavalier in sending me to war.” Sherman also drew a line for combatants responsibility in war—“they are responsible for their actions on the battlefield, not for being sent to war,” she said. Sherman said that it is difficult to hold soldiers responsible for the causes of war.
“They don’t want you pity—that’s condescension. They just want your dignity,” Sherman advised. Sherman ended her lecture with what people could do to welcome soldiers home.
“Bring them into your circle. Go to a veteran’s hospital. Learn about them and their travails,” she said. This interpersonal communication goes well beyond simply saying, “thank you for your service.”
Sherman also stated military families also serve in war, but in a different way because the families have to deal with seeing the news every day during war and hoping their loved one made it out okay. “Families vicariously serve,” she said.
Paul Evans, a freshman, enjoyed the lecture. “It was very eye-opening to be given the insight to what soldiers actually feel,” he said. Tyrra Demeritt, a freshman, also enjoyed the lecture. “I came here for my ITW class, but I thought Sherman’s discussion of soldier resentment was very interesting.”
Whitney Cyr can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org