An amazing piece in this weekend’s New York Times on women warriors (there are more of them than we might think) who are dealing with PTSD. Well worth reading. MP+

November 1, 2009
Women at Arms
A Combat Role, and Anguish, Too

For Vivienne Pacquette, being a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder means avoiding phone calls to her sons, dinner out with her husband and therapy sessions that make her talk about seeing the reds and whites of her friends’ insides after a mortar attack in 2004.

As with other women in her position, hiding seems to make sense. Post-traumatic stress disorder distorts personalities: some veterans who have it fight in their sleep; others feel paranoid around children. And as women return to a society unfamiliar with their wartime roles, they often choose isolation over embarrassment.

Many spend months or years as virtual shut-ins, missing the camaraderie of Iraq or Afghanistan, while racked with guilt over who they have become.

Ed Zurga for The New York Times
“Just admit that it happened. Then it’s over,” said Heather Paxton, Iraq veteran who received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress, and whose disability claims were rejected three times.

“After all, I’m a soldier, I’m an NCO, I’m a problem solver,” said Mrs. Pacquette, 52, a retired noncommissioned officer who served two tours in Iraq and more than 20 years in the Army. “What’s it going to look like if I can’t get things straight in my head?”

Never before has this country seen so many women paralyzed by the psychological scars of combat. As of June 2008, 19,084 female veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan had received diagnoses of mental disorders from the Department of Veterans Affairs, including 8,454 women with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress — and this number does not include troops still enlisted, or those who have never used the V.A. system.

Read the whole article here.

0 Responses

  1. Hey jgoreham:

    Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment. I had a look at the link you mentioned and I had previously seen the article in the NYT that she was meditating on.
    Women in the military certainly have it rough when it comes to deployments, and almost all of us are expected to be "deployable" these days. I do serve with several women who have gone overseas and they are blessed with supportive partners who are usually military as well, but I think it would be especiall tough to deploy as a single mom.
    You may enjoy this recent link from Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury – he's a big supporter of women in the military while very sympathetic to the battles they fight within the ranks:
    Hope to see you here again. What museum in NS d you work at?