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Opinion: ‘American Sniper’ and the realities of PTSD

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Many are flocking to theaters to see “American Sniper,” a film depicting graphic images of the Iraq War from the viewpoint of U.S. Navy Seal sniper, Chris Kyle. The film portrays the tensions of war combined with the struggles of his wife, Taya Kyle.

The U.S. formally ended the war in Afghanistan, and soldiers have been returning home to their loved ones. However, many will return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their combat. PTSD is a mental health disorder that occurs after enduring a traumatic experience. One suffering from PTSD often feels relapses back to the memories of the tragedy in their subconscious.

Troops returning home may not be coming back to the states for the first time. Soldiers face varying amounts of tours in duty; Kyle served four tours. Although soldiers return to combat voluntarily there is no accountability for the state of mind a soldier is in. Once a soldier has begun a tour, it’s difficult for a soldier to not desire a return to combat. As “American Sniper demonstrates, soldiers feel out of place returning home, especially when returning with PTSD. There are stories of soldiers not being able to sleep at night without a gun under their pillow. Those with the disorder suffer flashbacks to the individuals they killed.

Imagine being in the shoes of Chris Kyle and having 160 confirmed kills. Some of the individuals he killed were children with weapons of their own. It would be difficult to close your eyes at night and not see the blood of the people you have killed flushing through your brain.

Soldiers are so conditioned by war to kill, they become an inmate. They are prisoner to a horrifying experience, and they become used to daily agendas as a prisoner of war. Just like a prisoner in the states, most return to the jail they were once in. It’s a way of life. The military does not help soldiers adapt when returning home. Soldiers who serve numerous tours in combat come back home with challenges of adapting to civilian life and military leaders just give a salute or medal and leave it at that.

PTSD has been a part of combat before the first shot of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. The BBC released a story last week with findings from a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University who linked PTSD back to soldiers in 1300 BC.

Looking back at the Iraq War, soldiers were away from home for large portions of time. Soldiers were not given a chance to heal from what they endured before returning to combat. War brings images and actions that are unimaginable for participants. Images become jailed in the back of their mind. However, soldiers with PTSD symptoms like Kyle were sent right back over into conflict to add more tragic memories.

The Washington Post discussed a possible breakthrough way to treat PTSD with neurofeedback on Jan. 19. Neurofeedback allows for therapists to gain intel on a patient’s brain activity through a patient’s watching or participating in a source of media. Hopefully, neurofeedback will help many soldiers returning home as the method goes widespread. Although this could be an option for soldiers, it does not mean we should not work to make improvements as a nation.

For American Sniper,” Chris Kyle missed out on the opportunity for neurofeedback. On Feb. 2, 2013, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran allegedly shot and killed Kyle. The marine suffered from PTSD. Chris was trying to help him cope when he was killed.

President George W. Bush took action to go to war with Iraq along with Congress in 2003. The U.S. plan was ultimately to seek out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—weapons of mass destruction that were never even found in Iraq during the War on Terror. The Iraq War is not an isolated incident of a war that produced PTSD. Government action is often quick to make decisions without weighing the costs that comes to their own citizens.

The main goal for our military is to defend the United States of America. That being said, the U.S. still has a responsibility to protect its soldiers who suffer not just from a bullet, but from what soldiers witnessed as they return home to their families.

The U.S. government has a duty to implement better evaluations of returning and departing soldiers in future conflicts. Moving forward legislation should be passed for fewer troops on the ground and more use of unmanned aerial vehicles. While war is coming to an end and the Iraq War is over, that does not mean the government can just push this issue to the side. Let “American Sniper act as a reminder that this has happened before and will continue to happen until action is taken to protect future soldiers of war.

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