Last week I had went over the subject of combat stress as it relates to our photo and photographer and how our photo was, one of many taken in Vietnam that for the first time brought the effect of war into the living rooms and lives of the American public. Not to say that there were not photos prior to this from wars previously fought, but in the media coverage of Vietnam we begin to see an old brutality that is newly (in many cases) uncensored, uncut, and delivered to the public. After running into more dead end roads on immediate release of the photo and how the public received it. I tried to think as to how I could find some things the photo changed. I began to then think about what the photo said to me, and that is the evident combat stress of the Marine. Then I began to think of how combat stress was viewed during the time the photo was taken, and research the progressions and research, and even how the public began to see combat stress as an actual medical condition.
My research brought me to WWI, and it was during this war that many outpatient clinics were established to treat and study the effect of combat stress as a medical condition, (although some doctors still did not accept it as a disorder or disease). But a few years following the end of the war funding was cut and the majority of these institutions were closed down and research was unable to produce many progressive results. Now with the coming of WWII psychiatrists were confronted with a new issue, returning diagnosed men and women with combat stress to active duty or at the least, a functioning member of civilian society. And some may argue that WWII, in many ways, begin to spin the wheels of motion to address the issue of shell-shocked soldiers or combat stress medically and to label it as an actual medical disorder.
It was in Vietnam though, that the terms “Post Vietnam Syndrome” and “Stress Response Syndrome” were primarily used to refer to the veterans returning home with trauma from the war. The major inflow of combat stricken veterans along with the intense media coverage of the war, and photos like ours now began to allow the medical field as a whole and the public to see that this was in fact a problem that must be addressed. Although the progress was slow and tedious, with government regulations on the subject that were being placed seemingly more to cover the governments legal deniability as to deny compensation, rather than to help the veterans themselves. It wasn’t till the 1980’s that the term PTSD would be a diagnosable and treatable condition. And today more than ever, PTSD or combat stress is being researched and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are able to receive better health care and psychological care largely in part to the tragedy that was Vietnam.
*Begg, Dan. “Vietnam.” History of PTSD Through Warfare. WordPress, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
*JONES, EDGAR. “Definitions.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Oct. 2004. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.