Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD Among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan

Erin P Finley, Author
Erin P. Finley. Cornell Univ./ILR, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8014-4980-2
Paperback - 221 pages - 978-0-8014-7840-6
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With 120,000 soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, the tales of our returning troops demand the nation’s attention, argues Finley, a medical anthropologist with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Texas. Not surprisingly, the symptoms of PTSD have changed little since the Civil War—restlessness, nightmares, aggression, hyper-vigilance. Yet the diagnosis was officially recognized as a disability only 30 years ago. Treatment, while it has evolved, remains mired in conflict over best practices and mistrust between vets and civilian clinicians. Though Finley relies on 20 months’ worth of fieldwork, it’s the experiences of four soldiers that stand out in heartbreaking relief: O’Neil, whose wife was shocked to discover he carried grenades in his pocket while serving as a medic; Marine Tony Sandoval, who can barely complete a full sentence about the horrors he saw; soldier Jesse Caldera, who is haunted by fears he killed a child; and Derek Johnson, who lost a leg but, unlike many veterans, was able to reconnect with his wife. Finley declares there is great hope for the soldiers struggling to build a life worth living. (May)
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