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Pentagon Channel ‘Recon’ Sheds Light on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By David Mays
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2006 – The Pentagon Channel is taking an in-depth look at post-traumatic stress disorder in a new edition of its monthly documentary “Recon.” The half-hour show, called “The Wounds Within,” explores how the understanding of PTSD has evolved from the Civil War to World Wars I and II to Vietnam and now to operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

It also demonstrates how the Department of Defense is aggressively treating servicemembers returning from battle today, Pentagon Channel officials said.

“It’s not a small problem,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Daniela Marchus, who hosts the show. “Seeking help is such an important thing.”

Former Marine David Powell is featured in “The Wounds Within.” He was shot outside Danang, Vietnam, in 1968. “I saw the track of the bullet pass through the flak jacket of the fellow in front of me, and it was as if someone was pulling a thread,” Powell said. “The recall is vivid beyond imagination.”

Powell returned from battle with a Purple Heart but limited treatment options. “There was no decompression,” he said. “You were one thing: a combat veteran trying to save your own life.”

Army Pfc. Brian Daniels also is profiled in this program. His right leg was severely injured when a roadside bomb rocked his Humvee in Iraq. “I remember the smell, the sound,” he said. “It seems like it was yesterday.”

Unlike his counterparts wounded in Vietnam, Daniels was diagnosed with PTSD and quickly offered counseling.

“In the Civil War it was called ‘nostalgia’; following World War I it was called ‘shell shock’; following World War II it was called ‘combat fatigue’,” Dr. Robert Ursano of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences told “Recon” producers. “There’s always been a name, but never as much focus and trying to understand and intervene.”

But even with today’s understanding and treatment, “The Wounds Within” shows why many servicemembers refuse to seek help.

“There’s a stigmatization of mental health,” said Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the service’s surgeon general. “It’s a challenge to break through the stigma.”

Many other wounded servicemembers share very personal stories of how they survived, how they were able to seek treatment and how they are coping today in this emotionally charged “Recon.”

Marchus said she hopes “The Wounds Within” will spark discussion about PTSD and prompt servicemembers who are suffering in silence to ask for help. “They are suffering emotionally,” she said. “They are not alone.”

“Recon: The Wounds Within” premiers tomorrow at noon Eastern on the Pentagon Channel. It will encore throughout the month.

(David Mays works for the Pentagon Channel.)

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