“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” — Gen. Eisenhower to Operation Overlord troops.
On that first day of the invasion, more than four thousand allied troops had been killed, and thousands more were injured or missing. The largest casualties were at Omaha Beach, where over 2000 US troops were killed.
It took less than a week for the Allies to secure the beach, and in just two months, they would have landed more than 850,000 troops in France and would liberate Paris from German control.
Mental Health and the Soldiers of the Past
When the Allies invaded Normandy to wrest control of Western Europe from Nazi grasp, the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) didn’t exist. In fact, the terms used to describe people breaking under the stress of constant trauma were all pejoratives. Being “shell shocked” was considered a weakness. It suggested that the person having it was fragile or too cowardly to hold up against the strain of war.
However, one needs to see the photos from the trenches to know that not a single man on the beaches that day was a coward. It took strength and courage to triumph over the Nazis at Normandy and their own fears of dying in combat. By the end of the first week, nearly 10,000 American soldiers had been killed after Operation Overlord began.
Before PTSD received a clinical definition in the 1980s, people used other terms to define the mental trauma of living through combat, including “shell shock,” traumatic war neurosis, and combat exhaustion. It’s believed that these are early definitions of PTSD.
Treatment records of soldiers who returned home from World War 2 suggest that many of them had what we’d recognize today as PTSD. However, those numbers increased significantly with the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Back then, the military had learned how to train soldiers and operate more efficiently but not how to cope with the trauma as men. Statistics from researching PTSD and the Vietnam War suggest that nearly 15 percent of these soldiers experienced some form of PTSD. Many of them still experienced symptoms of PTSD up to as many as twenty years later.
PTSD as an Eventuality
During Operation Overlord, the Normandy Campaign, army psychologists found that the troops became significantly less effective after thirty days of combat. After forty-five days of straight fighting, the soldiers were barely functional, defined as being in a “near vegetative state.” They discovered that operating in constant chaos and combat, expected to be constantly alert, would eventually cause everyone to disintegrate into the fight.
During the entirety of World War Two, nearly half a million American soldiers would experience what was known as combat stress. Left unchecked, some people would have their combat stress develop into PTSD.
Today, the military engages in strategies to reduce combat stress and prevent the onset of PTSD. However, these strategies go hand-in-hand with post-traumatic treatment and require the consent and engagement of the soldiers.
Reducing the Stigma
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as we know it today, is not shameful or embarrassing. It doesn’t telegraph weakness or imply cowardice but the opposite. Most people who experience PTSD are the strongest in our communities to live through the trauma and come out the other side. Veterans of our modern wars experience PTSD at a rate of 27 percent.
Organizations like Wounded Warriors and The PTSD Foundation of America are working to reduce the stigma of getting assistance for mental health and PTSD. Our veterans, left without assistance for too long, have committed suicide and self-harmed without treatment. Today, more veterans die from suicide than combat. Untreated PTSD can also lead to an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life.
Our veterans represent the very best of our nation — they are selfless men and women who work to overcome the darkest of situations to improve our world and protect our home. Enabling them to ask for help, get the assistance they need, and prevent them from struggling to transition home starts with reducing the stigma of PTSD.
How Can You Help?
At Spirit Peak Organics, we donate a portion of every sale to a charity that we believe helps us improve our world. These organizations include Wounded Warriors and The PTSD Foundation of America. Both of these charities are designed to help veterans deal with war injuries.
You can help our vets return home safely and transition back to civilian life by supporting one or both of these organizations.
Additionally, you can make yourself a safe person for the veterans in your life to talk to. We recommend educating yourself on the basics of PTSD and encouraging people in your life to get support and therapy when it’s necessary.
Finally, you can write your government representative and encourage them to take a position that protects our veterans. Supporting our troops begins at home, but it needs to exist at every level in our community. Mental health and medical resources for the men and women who serve our country are necessary and needed.
Looking to learn more about what PTSD is? Check out our regular blog for more information.