Remembering the Heroes Can Spark PTSD

heroes spark PTSD

The United States has made honoring our armed services veterans an important part of our culture as Americans. Throughout history and as time continues to march onward, people from all walks of life take a moment or two out of their day to give thanks to those who risk their lives to protect us during times of war, whether the risks are present on our own soil or on lands abroad. From Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, and other dates that draw attention to our men and women of the military, these tributes are well meaning. But remembering the heroes can spark PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Here’s why.

For Veterans Who’ve Suffered Trauma, They Never Forget

For soldiers coming home from the rigors of war, reintegrating back into normal daily life is more than challenging – it can be hell. Consider those that returned from the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. While they may have experienced achievements on the battlefield, how can those related skillsets be used in the day-to-day of civilian life?

Many of these men and women have seen atrocities they’d like to wash away but can’t. Some have seen death, up close and personal, at their own hands. While others, through immense support systems from their families, friends and non-profit support groups, have helped them move on to life as they once knew it, before they enlisted. They love, laugh and thrive.

Imagine the potential emotional setback that can ignite when we remember their service, when all they want to do is forget and move on… this can spark PTSD.

A Hero’s Story – A Cause for Action

If experience is the greatest teacher, multiple-military-honor recipient Audie Murphy could sway a nation. And he did. After he returned to the states from WWII, he became addicted to sleeping pills. Suffering through bouts of depression and sleepless nights, he was told he had “battle fatigue”, common amongst his fellow soldiers. Murphy believed that he and other veterans deserved better. With that, he led a lifelong passion and commitment to the study of, what we now call, PTSD helping to break the stigma behind the condition and develop more programs to assist those with the disorder.

The Anniversary Reaction

When we celebrate a special day, such as Veterans Day, it is meant to show our respect and how we stand by those who protect our liberty and lives through unwavering service. An anniversary reaction can affect a marine, for example, who had endured some traumatic events overseas. Veterans Day may remind him of the event. The memory may be vivid or merely spark triggers of how he felt during the trauma. The anniversary reaction itself is the reoccurrence of those feelings. Fear, paranoia, anger and shame are just some of what can be manifested.

How We Protect Them

honor veteransWhile no one can erase the past, there are steps we can all take to better understand the inner-workings of PTSD, its triggers and how to minimize their effect on those we love. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder, affecting millennials and all generations of military personnel. For those that live with someone who has it, the anxious moments can seem contagious.

It Lives in the Subconscious

From World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, time spent on the battlefield may not be present in the here and now once the war is over, but for those carrying PTSD, it lives in the recesses of the subconscious mind. Once tapped, it can trigger a host of emotional and physiological responses.

Early case studies have shown that PTSD can bring about:

  • Flashbacks of war incidents and death
  • Survivor guilt
  • Anxiousness from loud noises or lights
  • Resentment or prejudice against certain peoples

For some, characteristics of the disorder may not be evident for years. For others, a sense that something is wrong may be all that shows up, with no specific recall to memories or prior events.

What to Look for in PTSD Triggers

Certain people, places and circumstances can set off an episode of anxiety or depression related to prior service and what was experienced during battle. The Department of Justice and the Veterans Administration have seen an increase in the amount of patients seeking help for PTSD diagnoses. As more information is shared publicly and awareness increases, help may come more readily. But for the many others who refuse to admit there is a problem or choose to numb their reality with drugs or alcohol, the dangers can continue to mount with fatal consequences.

Arm Yourself with PTSD Protection

Short of avoiding Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Day, Veterans Day and 9-11, there are ways to minimize the stress of these anniversary dates and shift perspectives to a more positive mindset.

  • Diversion. Make plans with a veteran to do something other than focusing on the specific date.
  • Selfless Acts. Choose to devote time during an anniversary day to give of yourself to others. Work a charity event or help someone you know who could use an extra hand around the house.
  • Therapy. Set aside a few hours to focus on inner-healing. Veterans should be applauded for what they’ve done for others. On anniversary days, as a veteran, what better time is there to do something good for yourself? Take in yoga or tai chi, a day at the beach, a good workout at the gym, or talk to a counselor and share your thoughts.

PTSD is Hard. Working Through It with a Support System in Arizona Helps.

If you or a loved one has an addiction or abuse problem with alcohol, it’s important to seek help early. Contact the Arizona Addiction Recovery Center now by visiting or calling 602.346.9130.