Recently I wrote a commentary about the Veterans Administration’s (VA) concern over the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resurgence after watching the PBS documentary series, "The Vietnam War." Since that article appeared, I have done several radio and TV interviews. I have asked the same question on every appearance, "Do you think the producers checked with the Veterans Administration about any possible adverse reactions by Vietnam Veterans?"
Everyone who responded to my question said that if the producers had contacted the VA, then perhaps the VA would not have had to issue a warning. The other common response was, "I had not thought about the possible ramifications until I read your piece."
Despite so much which has been both written and discussed about PTSD, I think the vast majority of Americans have heard the term, but understand very little about how it affects our veterans and active duty personnel. To help in understanding this condition, my website, songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us has an extensive article from the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the subject of PTSD. I suggest you read it. You will find access to the article on the home page under TBI/PTSD.
Many things can cause a shock to the brain, which is the primary cause of PTSD. In the case of the soldier, explosions, concussions, or trauma to the head or body can cause the shock. Most of these are sounds, but the second possible reason is a visual shock to the system. If you just look at the first few minutes of "The Vietnam War" documentary series preview, you will see both sounds and visual images. Once these are embedded in the brain and memory, they are very hard to, if not impossible, to eliminate.
My concern is that it may only take a few seconds to bring back those sounds or images, or both, back to the surface. We are a free country, and I can’t stop anyone, including veterans, from watching this series. My major concern is that this is an 18-hour-long program. I don’t think the producers or others have thought about the potential long-term impact on veterans this show might have.
The producer of the show said," We need at least 25 years after a war is over to access what happened properly." I found that comment interesting, because hundreds of thousands of men and women who served in combat in Vietnam are alive today. I look at Ken Burns’ other war documentary series, "The Civil War." That war ended 152 years ago and divided the nation in a different way than the Vietnam War did. Today, however, there is still controversy over the Civil War.
At present we are fighting over flags and statues that appear to still divide us as a nation — 152 years later. In many cases from Vietnam, the wounds are far from healed for many of those men and women who served. One talk show host told me his personal Vietnam story about how we, as Americans, treated our returning soldiers. He was flying a news helicopter and was sent to take a news crew to shoot the story of the returning P.O.W.’s.
The crew shot footage on the brave men coming off the plane and dropping to their knees to kiss American soil. Then they were loaded on buses and taken off the base to go to a processing center. When they got outside the air force base, protesters spat and threw rocks at the buses.
I’m a veteran, and I served during the war but did not go to Vietnam. I remember how our veterans were called baby-killers — and worse — upon their return. They were not welcomed home. In fact many Americans despised them.
When we went into the first Gulf War in 1990, many people remembered how our country treated the Vietnam U.S. soldiers when they came home and vowed that this time it would be different.
When the Gulf War troops came home, people thanked them for their service. As a vet, I thanked them then and still thank any veteran for his or her service to our country. But think about this: the Vietnam vet today sees the thank you given to present day soldiers as they return. The Vietnam vet could be angry that nobody appreciated him at the time he came home after doing his job. Many veterans have gotten past this issue — but not all.
We have many veterans who will not watch "The Vietnam War" series, while many others may. I’m concerned and so is the Veterans Administration, so we must be prepared to help those who need help. If you know a Vietnam vet, or a veteran from any other war, reach out and see if he or she is watching the series, and if so, ask how he or she is feeling?
With 18-hours of programming, you should check in with them at least once a week. Next, put a sticky note on your refrigerator with these three pieces of information:
1. Log in to VA.gov and find the address of the nearest Vet Center.
2. Write down Songsandstoriesforsoldiers.us
and have them log in and download one of the four eight-hour sleep audios.
3. Write in big numbers the Veterans Crisis phone number: 1-800-873-8255, press 1.
I believe there is no way of telling what the impact will be on veterans who served, after watching 18 hours on "The Vietnam War," on PBS.
I do believe that that amount of time could do additional severe damage to our men and women who served. A grateful nation must reach out, even if it is past due, to show these men and women that we do care and sincerely thank them for their service. Please pass this article around to friends and families, for they may know someone who might need help.
Dan Perkins is an author of both thrillers and children’s books. He appears on over 1,100 radio stations. Mr. Perkins appears regularly on international TV talk shows, he is current events commentator for seven blogs, and a philanthropist with his foundation for American veterans, Songs and Stories for Soldiers, Inc. More information about him, his writings, and other works are available on his website, DanPerkins.guru. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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