Top 10 Things Your Combat Vet Wants You To Know

What does your combat veteran wish you knew? Here are the top 10 things.

I’m a psychiatrist. Every day I listen to my combat veterans as they struggle to return to the “normal” world after having a deeply life-changing experience. I do everything I can to help them. Sometimes that can involve medications, but listening is key. Sometimes a combat veteran tells me things that they wish their families knew. They have asked me to write something for their families, from my unique position as soldier, wife, and physician. These are generalizations; not all veterans have these reactions, but they are the concerns most commonly shared with me.

 (Author’s note: obviously warriors can be female — like me — and family can be male, but for clarity’s sake I will write assuming a male soldier and female family.)

Top 10 Things Your Combat Vet Wants You To Know

1. He is addicted to war, although he loves you. War is horrible, but there is nothing like a life-and-death fight to make you feel truly alive. The adrenaline rush is tremendous, and can never be replaced. Succeeding in combat defines a warrior, places him in a brotherhood where he is always welcome and understood. The civilian world has its adrenaline junkies as well; just ask any retired firefighter, police officer, or emergency room staff if they miss it.

2. Living for you is harder. It would be easy for him to die for you because he loves you. Living for you, which is what you actually want, is harder for him. It is even harder for him if you are smart and do not need him to rescue you, since rescuing is something he does really well. If you are very competent at many things, he may at times question if you need him at all. He may not see that you stay with him as a conscious choice.

 3. “The training kicks in” means something very different to him. It is direct battle doctrine that when ambushed by a superior force, the correct response is “Apply maximum firepower and break contact.” A warrior has to be able to respond to threat with minimal time pondering choices. While this is life-saving in combat, it is not helpful in the much slower-paced civilian world. A better rule in the civilian world would be to give a reaction proportionate to the provocation. Small provocation, small response (but this could get you killed on the battlefield). When the training becomes second nature, a warrior might take any adrenaline rush as a cue to “apply maximum firepower.” This can become particularly unfortunate if someone starts to cry. Tears are unbearable to him; they create explosive emotions in him that can be difficult for him to control. Unfortunately, that can lead to a warrior responding to strong waves of guilt by applying more “maximum firepower” on friends, family, or unfortunate strangers.

4. He is afraid to get attached to anyone because he has learned that the people you love get killed, and he cannot face that pain again. He may make an exception for his children (because they cannot divorce him), but that will be instinctual and he will probably not be able to explain his actions.

5. He knows the military exists for a reason.  The sad fact is that a military exists ultimately to kill people and break things. This was true of our beloved “Greatest Generation” warriors of WWII, and it remains true to this day. Technically, your warrior may well be a killer, as are his friends. He may have a hard time seeing that this does not make him a murderer.  Although they may look similar at first glance, he is a sheepdog protecting the herd, not a wolf trying to destroy it. The emotional side of killing in combat is complex. He may not know how to feel about what he’s seen or done, and he may not expect his feelings to change over time. Warriors can experiences moments of profound guilt, shame, and self-hatred. He may have experienced a momentary elation at “scoring one for the good guys,” then been horrified that he celebrated killing a human being. He may view himself as a monster for having those emotions, or for having gotten used to killing because it happened often. One of my Marines recommended On Killingby Dave Grossman, and I would pass that recommendation on.

6. He’s had to cultivate explosive anger in order to survive in combat. He may have grown up with explosive anger (violent alcoholic father?) as well.

7. He may have been only nineteen when he first had to make a life and death decision for someone else. What kind of skills does a nineteen-year-old have to deal with that kind of responsibility?  One of my veterans put it this way: “You want to know what frightening is? It’s a nineteen-year-old boy who’s had a sip of that power over life and death that war gives you. It’s a boy who, despite all the things he’s been taught, knows that he likes it. It’s a nineteen-year-old who’s just lost a friend, and is angry and scared, and determined that some *%#& is gonna pay. To this day, the thought of that boy can wake me from a sound sleep and leave me staring at the ceiling.”

 8. He may believe that he’s the only one who feels this way; eventually he may realize that at least other combat vets understand. On some level, he doesn’t want you to understand, because that would mean you had shared his most horrible experience, and he wants someone to remain innocent.

9. He doesn’t understand that you have a mama bear inside of you, that probably any of us could kill in defense of someone if we needed to. Imagine your reaction if someone pointed a weapon at your child. Would it change your reaction if a child pointed a weapon at your child?

10. When you don’t understand, he needs you to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He needs you also to realize that his issues really aren’t about you, although you may step in them sometimes.  Truly, the last thing he wants is for you to become a casualty of his war.


Regina Bahten has been practicing medicine for the past 24 years; the first twelve were as a primary care doctor.  She then crosstrained as a psychiatrist. She has been honored with the friendships of many veterans over those years, whose influence led to her decision to accept a commission in the National Guard at the age of 48. For the past three years she has worked as an outpatient psychiatrist with the Veterans’ Administration in Las Vegas, primarily with veterans of the current conflicts.

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86 Comments on "Top 10 Things Your Combat Vet Wants You To Know"

  1. sewwritecreations | July 22, 2012 at 11:11 am |

    I can hear the combat vets applauding! I'm sure this post gives voice to the thoughts & emotions they feel but can't always express. Probably even helps them understand themselves better. This should be posted in every VA waiting room, for the benefit of all vets and their spouses!!

  2. You don't get over it.You try to live with it.Me ,I drink to sleep.VN 1969

    • After 76 Months in Vietnam, I tried the drinking without relief. I finally realized that, like you, just live with it. 5 years of Counseling didn't help either. My wife of 40 years has dealt with me since we met but she stuck it out and continues to be my savior.

      I hope all the wives work as hard as she has. Without her, what am I? Just another disfunctional veteran with no where to go except back to where I grew up. Vietnam at 18 and finally left at 26.

    • My husband was a door gunner in Vietnam with the 238th. We have been married for 34 years and he still suffers. Jim says the same thing. It happened and nothing will change that and I just have to learn to live with it and do the best I can. I feel helpless at times but we just try to get through it together. What else can you do? Jim drinks to sleep and our dog watches over him.

  3. I agree this is great advice spouses need to know! It took many arguments and hurt feelings for years before I finally learned and accepted #3. Wish I would have known that A LOT sooner!

  4. This is a wonderful piece! Knowledge is power. As a retired guidance counselor, I can highy endorse Dr. Bahten's guide.

  5. This would of help me and many other Viet nam vets express how we felt. I took up drinking and divorce then ran to a differant state to hid out.

  6. The police in my area should know this , i got pulled over for speeding (3 miles an hour over the posted speed limit .) mind you i was late for an appointment at the v.a. hospital ( mental health as it were). the cop said i wasn't a vet and that he had never met a vet "so angry" like me befor , yeah i probley needed to slow down ,

  7. but he didnt have to yank me from my car and point a loaded weapon in my face to get me to "stop speeding" he did everything to insite "anger" , yes i could have held my cool , and i was wrong for speeding . i was not disrespectful of him or his uniform untill he was disrespectfull of my service and uniform .. mind you that my step father served as a police officer for over 26 years ( and i do have a lot of respect for him (my father )the law and law inforcement in general ) how ever in my town (portland oregon ) at that time there had been 12 or 13 police involved shootings that year alone(by april ) ,

  8. talk about not wanting to be home when dad was in one of his moods , my dads war was about 1 third of my lifes problems , and then you ad my experience , then you add my older brothers experience and then my little brothers experience , please please watch out for those invisible wounds … even after 43 years you should "see" my fathers wounds … i pray that my nephews and children dont see what i saw growing up , nore do i wish them to go to war …….

    • Albright Kimberly | September 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

      Hi ,I am one of the secondary PTSD kids too. I love my Dad and had a great conversation with him on this topic last night, at age 50. When I was a kid my brother and I were over the back fence as soon as we heard the car hit the neighborhood……k

  9. these are right on the mark but 40 plus years late for me.

  10. WE have to get rid of these psychologists and get some scientists. The problem is the chemicals that the troops are subject to not the environmnent. These psychologists are trained wrong and believe their behavuoral BS. Most of them have their own illness.

    • THOMAS,
      You are an ASS!
      Get with the program!!!!! You have NO idea what you are talking about.! Have YOU ever served? My guess………….NOT!!!! You have NO idea…. You should be a little more understanding of what our military have to go through.YOU ARE A Pathetic! ??//@@@! YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS……I mean really?????? I know from EXPERIENCE…I've have had a spouse in the MARINES…. GIVE ME A BREAK……..OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT…. YOU ARE A JOKE! CLOSE YOUR CLAM, IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

    • Thomas, you haven't a clue! Have you been in combat? Been shot at? Called in artillery too close for comfort? Had to kill or be killed? The problem lies with those who would just rather dismiss those who have…out of sight…out of mind. Chemicals? Yes, they are everywhere. You drink water don't you? Please, quit posting on this page.

    • Obviously you have never lived with a Vet. Please remember my husband as many o the men choice to go there to protect YOU!

  11. When we came home from Vietnam we were looked down on by the media, friends and family. When anything bad happened and a vet was involved it would be all over the news for days. We could not get jobs because we were told that we were trouble makers and on drugs.
    The VA said there was nothing wrong with the Nam vets and sent us on our way. We turned to drugs and alcohol to get by day to day.
    #3 for me hit home, I would go into attack mode but couldn't break contact. Nam vets have suffered for more then 40 years and our loved ones have suffered even more. I hope the vets coming home now can hold there heads high and get the help they deserve.
    I can't tell you how hard it is when a friend or family member dies and you can't even go to there funeral, its easier to put it out of your mind like it never happened.

    • 2, 3, 4 and 6 hit home… albeit 45 years later.

    • My Nam vet was not able to talk about his experiences for over 20 years because he thought harm would come to me and our children. he thought he would go to hell for what he had been ordered to do over there. he was a kind loving husband, father and grandfather. he still had nightmares until the day he died. he always told me that basic training was brainwashing and the USA was the biggest terrorist organization going,

  12. Two divorces and a separation you would think I would have asked for help. I finally went to the VA after my younger brothers persistence. All the points hit home but who would have thought. Served during Desert Shield/Desert Storm as an Air Force Medic. Same recurring dreams every night. This article should be given to all returning combat vet and even those not in combat but who have come in contact with them, overseas or stateside. We will never know if another Agent Orange were unleashed when the oil fields were burned by Saddam. I don’t regret serving when I did but the BS that we have to go through to seek help. My way of coping is riding my motorcycle. Luckily for me I do not drink nor smoke but I know my lack of sleep will eventually catch up to me. Prove that to the VA. Thanks to my fellow vets for serving and those currently serving for the sacrifices we have given.

    • Goose, I hear you on the motorcycle riding brother….Thats how I cope!!

      • Harley Davidson Night Rod Special and twisty roads! You won't see a motorcycle at a psychiatrists office unless the counselor is the one riding it!

        • Jill sowder | July 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

          That’s how my husband is dealing with things also! Thank god (or whom ever) for motorcycles!

  13. Spartan 51 | July 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm |

    Wow! Right on..
    After 7 years of working in Iraq and Afghanistan, this tells it all for me.
    I wish the every politician reads this and sees what their BS has done to so many fine men and women in out services.

  14. chvietvet | July 25, 2012 at 7:19 am |

    If a serviceman or woman survives combat, as most do, the biggest problem they face in their lives is reestablishing themselves in a civilian society. With so much psychobabble inserted into discussions of every problem created for veterans after they come home, it is difficult to see the most obvious problem that veterans face: just earning a living and supporting a family. In 1975, Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller developed a program called WIN to keep down the inflation that was expected after the Vietnam War. The program depended on reducing the number of jobs in the private sector, which made it difficult for vets who had just earned a college degree with VA support to find a job. In 1977, the Comptroller General and Civil Service Commission under President Carter made a proposal for Congress to eliminate veterans preference in public employment in order to give preference to certain non-veterans. Congress did not change the law, but the Civil Service Commission implemented the illegal program anyway. If a federal agency deliberately violated the law giving hiring preference to a veteran, there was no legal recourse available to the veteran until 1998, when the Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act became law. While veteran-hating civil servants were free to illegally bar veterans from employment with their agencies, 1,100,000 federal civil service jobs formerly held by WWII and Korean War vets were turned over to non-veteran. The U.S. Department of Labor illegally made up a rule that only jobs paying less than $25,000 per year were "suitable for veterans," making vets with college degrees or special qualifications "overqualified" for any jobs the Department of Labor regarded them to be suited for. The result of all this was the appearance of hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans on the streets of American cities. Denying a person a means of self-support is murder. The effectiveness of this form of murder can be seen from the record established by Stalin and Mao for killing millions of people in places where resistance against their programs was encountered, such as the Ukraine and rural China. When mass murder is being committed, the public has to be shown that the victims are somehow to blame for their own demise. This is the reason that the deliberate impoverishment of veterans through denial of benefits, particularly benefits designed to provide them with jobs, must be accompanied by convincing reasons that the veterans themselves are at fault for making themselves dangerous or anti-social employees. All veterans are therefore painted with the same brush and alleged to be subject to psychotic flashbacks, uncontrolled anger, inability to sleep, addiction to drugs and alcohol, and memory of unspeakable war crimes they committed routinely on the job. They are also regarded as people trained to kill someone in a matter of seconds, even if their job was postal clerk or cook while in the service. Do you think this makes them attractive as employees? More than four out of five veterans have been certified by the DVA to have not a trace of PTSD or a similar condition. Although they receive no pension, every employer who interviews them will see a potential "monster," as Dr. Phil certified all veterans to be on his national TV show. All of this speaks for the existence of a propaganda campaign to vilify a segment of society against which a monstrous crime is being perpetrated. I see veterans being subjected to mass murder so that our politicians and civil servants can use the considerable amount of money needed to pay the benefits owed to living veterans for other things. Hopefully, I will live to see the high government officials responsible for this capital crime brought to trial and given the death penalty if found guilty.

    • Where did you get your information? The Stats I have found show the Vietnam Vet on average has succeded if life better then his counter part who didn't serve in Vietnam or the military. The Vietnam Combat Vet has a lower criminal conviction or prison/jail time rate. Pormotion in the civilian world at a faster rate and a better success rate as businessmen. I havent met any real Rambos only wantabees. Every time I meet a "down on the luck vet I have to question him and so far all I have run into are fakes. Every Combat Vet I know is a take charge type who doesn't quite and if he can't get through a problem will go around it. Winners not cry babies. As far as homeless goes remember that if the vet didn't buy a home while on active duty the minute he was handed his DD214 he was homeless even if he went to live with mom and dad. It made the Stats look good so the VA could get more money.

      • Let me get this straight. Every veteran you know is a winner, unless they have adjustment issues, PTSD, chronic depression, etc. Every veteran who struggles to get passed these issues without apparent success is a "wantabee", a fake and a self inflicted failure. Is that how you really see combat vets?

  15. As a wife of a husband who has deployed 9 times, these are the best notes of advice I have ever seen to help family members attempt to understand things. I believe we will never truely understand as we weren't there, but these lessons sum up most of the lessons my husband and I learned the hard way. We've had our struggles and are stronger for them, but I see families ripped apart all the time because neither the soldier nor spouse will admit to the differences and learn to live with them on a daily basis. #1 and #10 hit home the most for me. It was very hard for me to take second seat to war and to give him the benefit of the doubt in seemingly unrelated issues. But accepting those has allowed me to love my husband and his chosen profession more.

  16. I am the wife of a combat veteran from the Vietnam War. It took me YEARS and a close brush with separation or divorce to work through the miasma of problems created by my spouse's residual problems and complexes from his experiences in that stupid, stupid war. TO THIS DAY Vietnam veterans are still often painted with a quasi-"psycho" brush and latent disrespect borne of the way they were viewed back in the late '60s and '70s. This article revealed things I sort of knew but couldn't articulate. Somehow, underneath all the b.s., I knew my husband was a man of love, honesty, high character and integrity, despite the many painful times when his knee-jerk reactions (see #3–training) kicked in.
    Now, I understand that recent veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back with the same life-altering traumas, physical injuries and disabilities, and though I am sure the VA does what it can, up to a point, it's still a bureaucracy and still clouded and stymied with too little facilities, too many wounded veterans, and a society and politicians who largely have other things they rank of more importance.
    My husband, God bless him, is one of the lucky ones. He came close to losing me and so worked harder on himself and with the help of the Military Order of the Purple Heart finally jumped through enough hoops and filed enough reams of paper to get the benefits he is due. I URGE ALL VETERANS AND SPOUSES to take full advantage of what's offered by the veterans organizations such as Purple Heart and Disabled American Veterans, to name two, as well as the VA. They are there for YOU. God bless every last one of you veterans who stand up for all America and sacrificed, serve and protect and stand guard over this exceptional Republic. It is you, and your kind, whom we have to thank–going back over 200 years–for our incredible freedoms. I and others can say "thank you," but it will never be enough. The FORCE *is* with you!

    • SSG(Ret) Crane | July 27, 2012 at 10:53 am |

      Maam, THANK YOU for your support to all veterans and servicemembers. One thing this country needs is more people like you. To many are caught up with themselves and unfortunately our schools do not teach what it is to serve your country. Hopefully, some day that will change and veterans and servicemembers serving will get the respect and support they truly deserve. Again, THANK YOU for your support. It is truly appreciated.

    • Mrs. Vicki, with all due respect for your opinion and experiences I have to say that more veterans would probably go and get help through VA Medical centers, and services if the VA's entire purpose did not seem, through the VA's actions, to specifically be to deny any and all benefits to any veteran who applies for them, or goes to a VA center for help. I am not a combat veteran, but do hold a service connected disability from having been activated for Iraq in 2003 and I know many who are; however, I have seen personally the denial of services any time I have gone to the VA hospital for help. I have been denied any help even when my back had gone out, I couldn't straighten up, and was in so much pain that tears were flowing freely down my face. Yet the receptionist in the VA emergency room refused to do anything including get a wheel chair for me, her response as I remember it was "Go down the hall way to patient services and fill out their paperwork." I can't tell you how difficult it was to attempt to walk to that office to have a novel of paperwork presented to me to be filled out before I could receive any help. I ended up going to a civilian doctor, and was taken care of within a half hour, with only one sheet of paperwork required. One last item that needs to be mentioned, a brother infantryman of mine, yes we are all brothers, was his disability benefits relating to a piece of shrapnel he now carries in his knee from Route Irish in Iraq. The VA denied his benefits stating in the letter he received that his injuries were not "combat related". I read the letter immediately after him, and was disgusted by the VA's ineptitude in refusing a purple heart holder his due.

  17. what a RUSH Vietnam is and will always be in my mind. Wanting to lash out to THOSE that are not up to STANDARDS. Whos? What do you think. I wonder what is would have been like if I stayed in the States during my service time. Like no one at all (but those that have been there) understand me. STRESS(ED) to the Max. What happens when a rubber band gets to its full max.

  18. My husband of 5 months is already talking about getting a room at the Bs instead of coming home to his wife (prior service) and 3 children. He deployed 5 days after we wed. I understand everything stated above. He tells me to tell the kids that he loves them, but has stopped telling me.

    • My husband was in Viet Nam for two tours of duty, I met if afterwards and we got married I then found out about the bad temper and how cold and hard he was . He has gotten help but he still shows no love, compassin or sympathy. He doesn't believe this but we have been married over forty years and I don't think he is ever going to change, but then most men don't. I guess I stayed with him because I always hoped he would and I do love him although I get very little back.

  19. I was a squad leader in Vietnam in 1968. I don't remember #6, the need for an explosive temper. I came home fairly normal. I didn't believe that such a thing as PTSD existed. In 1995 I was misidentified in an assault and very publicly arrested. In the days after I did have an explosive temper. My 15 minutes wearing police handcuffs gave me a full blown case of PTSD. Fortunately at this point in my life I had enough sense to know that I had a bit of a melt down and I did get professional help. The trouble with PTSD is that you look normal. No one can see the electrical storm going on in your head.

  20. I can relate to every one of these comments but I am a woman. After 2 tours in Iraq and currently on my 4th in AFG I would have appreciated if each of these comments didn't start with "He". The females exposed to combat are suffering from the same issues. We're getting shot at and blown up and losing our spouses too. I would have appreciated just one shout out from a female psychiatrist.

    • AMEN. Let me tell you, you ARE SOOO appreciated. YOU have ALL the respect in the world. Thank you for your service.

    • Did you notice this comment at the beginning of the article?

      (Author’s note: obviously warriors can be female — like me — and family can be male, but for clarity’s sake I will write assuming a male soldier and female family.)

      I assume it was done to avoid the he/she tag which gets annoying to read after a while, but the disclaimer was made that it can apply to either gender.

    • Jennifer, the entire article was BY a female psychiatrist who is also a (female) soldier, as I stated in the article. The choice of pronouns was for clarity,since he/she is hard to read and creates an unclear reference.

      • SSG(Ret) Crane | July 27, 2012 at 11:05 am |

        Maam, I mean no disrespect. The proper thing to not offend the women servicemembers would be to use the word servicemember. Your article is awesome and should be distributed in the press and on national televison to spread the word. Then maybe our so called politicians and such would make more of an effort to help my fellow servicemembers. Again, thanks for breaking it down for all to understand about us combat veterans. I SALUTE you. HOOAH!

        • Jennifer/SSG Crane, thank you for your service. I return your salute and HOOAH! And yes, "servicemember" is more inclusive than "soldier."

          Was that you on Vimeo?

  21. I'm a bit surprised that this is actually good. Most of the psycho-garbage that gets put out there is overly analytical and useless (1st time to Spouse Buzz). There were one or two that seemed slightly off, or maybe not as well explained as others, but overall I say Great Job. Many of my friends come to me for advice when the going gets tough for them because they think I've handled it better than most. What seems to elude them is that I handled it by finding another war torn country to work & live in. Ultimately I get many of the same points or make the same points with my friends and I've often found #8 to be the most difficult to deal with because it is often the reason they cannot explain the rest, especially #10.

  22. #1 & #2 are way wrong libiral crap——3 thru 10 are right on the mark……
    I spent 13 months as a huey CC flying MedEva and Recon inserts/extracts in 66-67 and can relate
    to 3-10 but never 1 or 2

    • As a grunt through IQ and AFG, I can assure you, #1 is dead on the mark. And I have had many conversations with guys I served with, since then. There is a definite rush to it, and we all find ourselves "missing" the firefights, still. After 3 years, even.

      I think it may have more to do with the setting. Getting shot at in a helo, is the threat of death. With no return-ability. In the heat of a firefight, the fear is over ridden by a sense of enjoyment at the returning of that threat. And the vigor of knowing you aren't dead. Yet. But I couldn;t imagine hurtling to the ground in a damaged bird.

      • Double what Alex said, I still find myself craving the hunt and missing firefights. There really isn't anything that can compare in my experience.

    • Bro I'm a OIF/OEF vet with 11 deployments. I am so addicted to war I can't find any outlet here at home. I get into all forms of dangerous activities trying to chase my dragon. Trust me, myself and many I served with are war addicts.

  23. I this article is extremely important. As a military spouse, I can only say that I wish there was more acceptance of this and the support to get help without the stigma. I could print this out, blow it up, and put it on our fridge and my husband would still say "that isn't me". We can't fix problems if they refuse to be acknowleged…
    –USMC spouse

    • Some of them do not want the problem fixed or they don't think there is a problem. They think you just think there is a problem because they refuse to accept the truth.

  24. Number 11. Never ask a Combat Vet "Did you Kill some one?). If you want a war story ask "Did you ever save someones life?), Just be prepaired ot accept the answer it may not be what you expect.

  25. Jennifer/SSG Crane, thank you for your service. I return your salute and HOOAH! And yes, "servicemember" is more inclusive than "soldier."

  26. OIF_OND_Fiance | July 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

    This article is phenomenal. There have been so many breakthroughs in PTSD and combat veterans. My fiance proudly served out country but there are times when he still shuts down and it’s hard for me to understand because I haven’t been there. There are things he can’t tell me because of clearance. I will take all ten to heart. Thank you!

  27. I wish my husband would open up and speak to me before our divorce is final about how he really feels because after 37 yrs I know he is having a problem dealing with all of this since he got laid off 2 yrs ago from his job and going to the va for help seems things have just gone downhill. Even after all we have been thru over the yrs from his PTSD! Thank you for sharing these types of articles I know they help both of us see alot of things and that other people are having some of the same issues.

  28. WOW, Thank you for this article. As a combat vet myself, this really hit home for me.

  29. Dr. motlagh | August 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

    Thanks for your article. I see this in my practice on mY VA patients everyday. It gives me good insight.
    thank you….

  30. I'm writing the 2nd Edition of my book, VeteranSpeak: An Introduction to the Language of Veterans… and I would like to include this post (not the commentary, but the post itself by Dr. Bahten) in the appendices of the book. What is the appropriate process to request this?

  31. as I begin my Masters in social work, I'll print this out for my wall… because I think this needs to be read and re read. Since I want to be a counselor for the spouses – this is invaluable. Thank you so much.

  32. You put into words what we all feel. You are 100% on target.
    Doc Steele

  33. when i first saw this articale i thought it would be a joke from some shrink that wanted her name on something but i must admitt so much of it she nailed right on the head. good job on listening and writing this article .

  34. Excellent!

    Jeffrey Denning
    Warrior SOS

    Train. Win. Recover.

  35. As a military spouse (and ex-military as well), thank you for this. It helps me to understand my partner, but also to understand me, and why I might do some things.

  36. The phrase "speak for yourself" comes to mind.

    I have no idea why you would leap to some of these conclusions.

    You're telling me that if I walked into your office and identified myself as a combat vet, you would think, "Hmm… odds are he had a violent alcoholic father."

    That's absolutely ridiculous thinking.

  37. As a wife of a combat Vietnam Veteran… hits it right on the head!

  38. I thank all of you for your service and for this great article. My father suffered with PTSD from the Normandy Beach Invasion. Back when I was a young adolescent and teenager, I had no clue. The flashbacks he had made no sense to me. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I found out what was happening. My father was a good man with demons inside his mind that no person could see or understand but himself. I thought he was "just" an alcoholic. Yet he was a wonderful man drinking away those horrible memories until he could not take it anymore. In 1989, my father took his life. To this day I wish my father had help to rid him of those demons. Now I worry about my son, an Army vet of 10 years with 4 tours under his belt. What he has told me and what I have seen in his eyes scares me. He is a strong minded man, and who knows what demons he has in his mind, but himself. I will send this article to him via letter because he is now serving time in the brig. I pray for all of us for GOD to give us strength and healing, to wash the demons away, and to give peace within the hearts of those who have faught the battle of life. Debbie

  39. #3 you might want to look it up but “Apply maximum firepower and break contact” this might be true for some but the type of man you are talking about would most often be Infantry and they do not do this they apply max firepower and assault through the enemy not break contact. Other than this it was a good read and you explained a lot. Good job with this just next time research how a firefight is conducted before writing about it.

    • sabrinacking | December 27, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      Cory that was a great point. Especially for people actually dealing with combat vets. If you think they are just going to apply maximum firepower then calm down and deescalate a're setting yourself up for a very dangerous scenario. No actually, they won't. They will keep coming and coming and the only way to deescalate is for you, the noncombat vet,in the situation to disengage. If we could teach that lesson to wives, we'd have alot less domestic violence.

  40. Thank you , thank you for a great article and comments ( even the ones I disagree with) As a father of a combat AFG veteran who is operating on 2-3 hours of sleep of night. ANd who still hasn't opened up to me but knowing some day hopefully and pray fully he will ! If not me then to someone. God bless all out vet's for your service but especially the combat vets who should have never seen or delivered such horror on to others. Semper FI

  41. I have PTSD from my military career,I was also involved in the rescue and clean up operation of the Lockerbie air disaster . I would like closure but Britain does not want to talk about it ?

  42. I have did the unspeakable in a time of war with USMC 1/5, I would be surprised if I don't kill myself in the future. My first attempt was obviously unsuccessful. Im five years out, I can not imagine holding out for a natural death.

  43. Guy Lamunyon | January 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm |

    Thank you Dr. Bhaten ! ! ! !

    Guy C. Lamunyon
    Army Psych Mental Health Nurse
    Lieutenant Colonel
    USAR Retired
    FACEBOOK: Guy Lamunyon

  44. Thank you so much..

  45. Dave,MSG USA, Ret | March 27, 2014 at 3:50 am |

    I think this is great info/advice for all military personnel and/or spouses. I served 22yrs and when possible I stayed overseas as much as possible, especially high threat areas "VN/Korea). I liked and performed well under hostile environments. I served in Vietnam 66-68 as an infantry Sqd-Ldr and PLT SGT. I returned from VN as a 21yr old SSG! I was single and in need of help, none was offered and to ask for it was a sign of weakness. I got married within 6monts of my return, myself and my young new bride could have used some help/guidance. I drank too much prior to getting married and thought it would help "at least slow it down" , but it didn't. Six years and two loving children later it all ended in divorce. If we had the help and resources offered to us that our military has to day. A lot of lives, and marriages could have been saved. These 10 topics of discussion are on target. I've always felt that my yours in VN were my most challenging and rewarding on my military service. There's no greater honor than to lead me in combat. Young leaders to day in most cases do their jobs well in combat, but are lacking in the skills necessary to lead and guide me and women back at home station. Especially the young single NCOs/LTs that haven't a clue to what the married subordinates are going through. These young leaders need to have training that discuss these 10 topics at a minimum and what help/resources are available to help their subordinates. It's hard for the senior/experienced Ldr's to guide their subordinate "junior" Ldr's and their subordinates as well. You can be sure that someone will fall through the crack until all leaders married and single have had domestic/family guidance and services training. "In order to lead, First you must instill the will to follow."

  46. Hey… I read this article when it first came out, and I have thought about it a lot since. Well… last night. I saw it posted, verbatim on Facebook as a status update, and signed by a person named Kim. I thought back and knew that Kim did not write the article, so I called this person out… but all of my comments got deleted. It is posted on a PTSD Veterans Facebook page with approx. 82,000 followers. I have done everything I can to get this plagiarized article removed, since it means so much to me, but I need some help from the author.

      This is the Facebook page.
      Again, the comments about the matter won't make any sense, because they deleted everything that I protested in honor of not plagiarizing other people's work.

    • jacey_eckhart | April 6, 2014 at 9:08 pm |

      Jessica: Thanks for letting us know about the problem. I also posted a reply and sent the link. I requested that she share the original author's name. My comments too were eliminated.

      This is upsetting to me because I remember how hard Regina worked to get this piece into shape. It went through quite a few edits and it is all her original work that comes out of her experience.

      We'll have our editorial team look into it further.

  47. I would like to know how to help my son… he's a Marine vet that just got out. He is/was a Sgt. in charge of 8 or 9 guys on a mission. At the last minute they put 10 more guys in his command and they left for a mission. While out on this particular mission, one of the guys on the "last minute" add on's was killed… (as he was shooting, his fire arm malfunctioned). This was a friend of my sons. He obviously feels responsible… He keeps saying "what if"… He had "his" men clean and prepare their fire arms in preparation, but apparently the other guys did not. His SSgt told him when they got back that it was his fault. My heart breaks for him because he really feels responsible and there is nothing I can do to help him…. then I get phone calls at 3 in the morning after he's been drinking. I just listen to him go on and on, but I want to have something productive to tell him…. any advise???

  48. This article is excellent. This comment is very helpful for me to remember. "He needs you also to realize that his issues really aren’t about you, although you may step in them sometimes."

  49. Guy Lamunyon | June 22, 2014 at 8:26 pm |

    Dr. Bhaten – I am retired from the VA and teaching at Northern Arizona University.

    I hope you are well.

    LTC Guy C. Lamunyon

  50. This info has really helped me. I am dating a vietnam vet. I am a widow and this man came into my life with so much love and passion. When I started to express my love in words to him…he seemed to__escape, go into hibernation, turn cold. He stop calling and texting me back, but I knew he really liked me. I wasn't running from him. He just knew I would leave, but I'm still here, I told him "Your deserve to be loved and to love. This I believe "Surprised" him. I guess most woman took it personally. Not I instead, I now have a pasion and caring heart to do volunteer work at VA for the vets and soldiers. My experience with this man "awakened" a calling in my life.,______

  51. For just over 40 years I was married to a Vietnam vet who was a staff sergeant for a reconnaissance platoon, Echo Recon, 4/12 199th. I read and read everything I could to try to help him exist and cope with PTSD; sometimes it was just heartbreaking to see him in tears. I highly recommend the book, "Tears of a Warrior" which can be obtained through My husband took years to compile his book which gives a compelling account of how a young person can be transformed into a killing machine with the warrior mindset you mention. His book, Hearts: The Story of a Reconnaissance Squad Leader, is available from or He dedicated his book to another warrior, his point man, who survived the jungle but not the war; my husband made the decision to follow him into eternity less than a month ago. Please read all you can to help your warrior…

  52. Marion from ft. Bragg.?

  53. Welcome home, brother, and thank you for your service. I understand where your wife is coming from as I have also stood by my combat veteran for 35 years.

  54. HooRah and well said.

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