“Images of the U.S led massacre at My Lai dominated the television, yet the daily atrocities committed by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong rarely made the evening news. The Vietnam War, exacerbated by the anti-war movement at home, gained increasing media attention. The Vietnam U.S. warriors were forgotten when they needed the support from home the most.
The Vietnam media war coverage, and its resulting impact on public opinion, has been debated for decades by many intelligent scholars and journalists, yet they are not the most qualified individuals to do so: the veterans are.
Journalists based in Saigon daily reported facts about battles, casualties, and the morale of the troops, yet only a soldier could grasp the true reality of war. Veterans understand what really occurred in the jungles of Vietnam, and only they can compare the truth to what was portrayed on television. Furthermore, their homecoming stories most accurately reveal how the American public has cruelly mistreated the Vietnam veteran.” [Erin McLaughlin]
Myth: The media have reported that suicides among Vietnam veterans range from 50,000 to 100,000 – 6 to 11 times the non-Vietnam veteran population.
Mortality studies show that 9,000 is a better estimate. “The CDC Vietnam Experience Study Mortality Assessment showed that during the first 5 years after discharge, deaths from suicide were 1.7 times more likely among Vietnam veterans than non-Vietnam veterans. After that initial post-service period, Vietnam veterans were no more likely to die from suicide than non-Vietnam veterans.” [Houk]
The research numbers on this topic did not agree with earlier research. Various Veteran Healthcare Hospitals, academics, and the DOD participated in the completion of the studies. The numbers are sometimes 100% out of phase with reality. The standard for this research was supposed to be that conducted by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS) that ordered by congress in 1983.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have not conducted a comprehensive statistical study, and I can only offer an “opinion based on personal observation and a small statistical sample”.
When the warriors returned from Vietnam, PTSD did not exist as it is known today. This was because associated stereotypes such as shell shock, and other non-flattering names were seen as shame full by the warrior. The veteran typically buried the disturbing events deep into the recesses of their minds, but not deep enough that it did not peek its ugly head to disrupt their life. This included conflict within the family, depression, substance crutches, and the inability to deal with the persecution from the civilian population for serving in the Vietnam War. The latter was a huge catalyst that exacerbated the gyrations of the mind when returning from a combat environment.
Today we are seeing PTSD from the Vietnam veterans that were quasi successful in dealing with the problem by way of avoidance through activity. Pouring themselves into work and other activities that kept their mind busy, and that successfully allowed them to have a normal life leaving most of their strife hidden while they remained active. Suddenly retirement is in effect, they physically have slowed down and those memories begin to emerge to their detriment. Typically the veteran does not recognize what is happening and it is usually their support mechanism that sees it first, if they have one, if not they have a higher rate statistically of detrimental problems that can lead to an ultimate disaster.
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