Combat trauma is the subject of a new HBO documentary called Wartorn: 1861-2010. With archival photographs and footage, it shows how PTSD has had many names over the years. Civil War: hysteria, soldier’s exhaustion; WWI: shell-shock; WWII: combat fatigue, lack of intestinal fortitude; Viet Nam, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The power of the film comes from interviewing the survivors of war and their families and attaching a stream of tortured faces and stories of broken lives to the disorder. So many more than just the soldiers are damaged by war.
The film does not offer solutions nor hint at treatments, which is not in its scope. But it does show why the victims do not seek help, preferring to “buck up” rather than seem weak. Unfortunately, uncontrollable rage, anxiety, and suicide are all too often the results of trying to carry the burden alone.
If you know of someone who was changed by their experiences in war or a family who has a loved one in trouble after returning from war, have them watch this important film hosted by James Gandolfini. Look in your local TV listings to find out when it is showing. I’m sure it will also be on video someday soon. But don’t wait. Time is not the friend of those suffering from combat trauma.