Vietnam War and Its Impact on Veterans
Vietnam fought for independence and won in 1954. The country then split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam and war broke out. The Vietnam War happened in November of 1955, and lasted a total of twenty years, ending in April of 1975. North Vietnam was supported by communist countries such as the Republic of China and the Soviet Union. South Vietnam was supported largely by the United States of America who is non-communist. More than two million lives were lost, three million were wounded, and hundreds and thousands of children left as orphans. The Vietnam War left a toll on the people physically and mentally. Being away from families off and on for a total of twenty years, in war, can destroy the wellbeing of a person and their family. The Vietnam War left long term negative effects on the veterans and their families.
The Vietnam War left veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, after the war was over. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that evolves after a traumatic event. Symptoms include unwanted memories, changes in mood, reactivity, and reminders of the traumatic event, in this case, the Vietnam War (McLeay, 251). Approximately thirty percent of male veterans and nine percent of female veterans have suffered from PTSD at one point in their life following the Vietnam War. Many of the PTSD in veterans had become chronic and persistent for a long period of time (Tull). Prior to the Vietnam War, PTSD was not a diagnosable illness, rather, it was called “post-Vietnam syndrome.” Legislation did not allow for veterans to recognize their illness as PTSD until April of 1979 (Connell, 1). Post-traumatic stress disorder is not only a mental illness but has effects on the physical wellbeing of a person. PTSD can lead to gastrointestinal disease, respiratory disease, musculoskeletal, renal and autoimmune diseases, and with cardiovascular disease, and is closely linked with pain, depression, and diabetes (McLeay, 251). PTSD is something many veterans are fighting and will continue to fight for the rest of their lives.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are closely linked together, half of the veterans who suffer from PTSD also experience clinical depression (Tull). Depression, linked with PTSD, is a disease that has been afflicting soldiers for thousands of years. Many of the symptoms resolve themselves within three months. If these symptoms last longer the illness, becomes chronic. Soldiers experience symptoms of distressing dreams, hallucinations, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and feelings of detachment (Connell, 1). Many of the symptoms might not initially be isolating, but can still make life difficult for veterans in the long term.
Closely linked with depression is anxiety, which is also an illness that veterans face post-war. Anxiety symptoms not only include mental weaknesses, but also physical ones including abnormal liver texture, headaches, a1-antitrypsin levels, and ceruloplasmin levels (McLeay, 254). This means low blood pressure and makes it more difficult for the body to absorb essential nutrients needed to survive. People who face issues like this need to seek help through physiologists and, or medication. This is difficult for a person to have to go through, facing issues within the body that are detrimental to the body can be a difficult position to be in. For example, in 490 BC Herodotus wrote of a Greek soldier who went blind after witnessing the death of a fellow soldier who was next to him. This soldier showed no signs of previous mental illness and was described as a strong and bold young man. After witnessing events as traumatic as this caused the man to never see again (Connell, 1). Veterans face issues similar to the blind man all the time, after witnessing and experiencing what they went through causes detrimental damage to the body and the brain.
Psychological conditions are not the only things that affect the veteran, but also their home life. Their relationships with their partners become jeopardized because of the conditions they face. When soldiers return home from the war their relationships change. Their satisfaction rate drops with their marriage, sex life, and life in general. There have been indications of difficulties parenting and the divorce rate is higher for a couple with a veteran than one without (Tull). Dealing with PTSD, depression, and or anxiety can make prioritizing a relationship hard. While the soldiers are away the partners may experience emotional withdrawal, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. The partner has to take on more responsibilities in the home life, adapt to unwanted lifestyle changes, and may experience isolation from family and friends. The couple may experience a strain in the relationship and hinder from intimacy. Partners of veterans feel like they are “walking on eggshells” around their partner. Being afraid of any symptoms or triggering words or actions can be a difficult thing to have to deal with (Gabrial). Relationships are strained because of the symptoms the veterans have to deal with.
Strained relationships influence negative repercussions in the family life. There is an increase in violence in the children of veterans due to a parental figure away for several months (Tull). Their family life is jeopardized and what once was a happy family turns to a struggling family. The opportunity for the parents to teach their kids effectively is gone. When both parents are dealing with mental illness it becomes difficult to create a healthy family life. Parents with depression may have little motivation to interact with their children. These children are more likely to experience behavioural problems, difficulties forming relationships, academic difficulties, and mental health issues themselves. The children of Vietnam veterans have a higher rate of accidental suicide than those who do not (Gabrial). The experiences and difficulties the families of the veteran’s face are almost as detrimental as the struggles the veterans face themselves. Family life is at stake and a happy healthy family is no longer manageable after the war.
The Vietnam War left long term negative effects on the veterans and their families. Veterans suffered from illnesses such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The families were affected because of the effects left on the veterans. Both their relationships with their partners were sacrificed and their relationships with their children and families were ruined due to the war. Being away from families off and on for a total of twenty years, in war, can destroy the wellbeing a person and their family life, and the Vietnam War is proof of that.
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