The Vietnam War: The Mental, Social, and Physical Effects on the Soldiers
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In 1961 the worst war ever fought by America had just started. The Vietnamese of the north also known as the Viet Cong had invaded the south to take control of the entire country. America and other democratic countries felt the spread of communism to this country would be a stepping-stone for other communistic countries around the world, also known as the Domino Effect. America, as cocky as they were, invaded Vietnam to help the southern Vietnamese. Although America is one of the most powerful countries in the world, it extremely underestimated the dedication of their enemy.
Backed by China and the USSR, the Viet Cong were a determined and very tough enemy. The Vietnam War as a whole was a terrible act by the US government. Vietnam was going through their own civil war and we should not have participated in it. Just as America shouldn’t have tried to help Iraq when they were having social problems. The American army that was sent to Vietnam in the sixties was composed of five hundred thousand infantry including one of those soldiers being my father who was drafted into the war. The Vietnam War had a negative impact on the soldiers due to the mental, social, and physical problems they had encountered during and after the war.
The soldiers who were in Vietnam experienced many things that a normal person could not handle or comprehend. After the war a great deal of the soldiers had developed a war syndrome. C.B. Scringer states, “Battles inflame thoughts of imminent death or impending injury, so the trauma of war becomes firmly embedded into ones consciousness”(18). At first many doctors did not really understand the concept of a war syndrome and diagnosed the soldiers with common characteristics such as fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, sleep disturbance, forgetfulness, and impaired concentration (Hyams 399).
After a while the doctors had figured out that most of these diagnosis’ they had given to the veterans had something to do with the war they had just fought in. As doctors researched these symptoms more, they came up with acute combat stress reaction and post-traumatic stress disorder (Hyams 401). Doctors’ also concluded that both combat experience and exposure to atrocities have important negative consequences on the veterans (Lauffer 66). Also when the soldiers came home after the war they were highly criticized for their actions right after they had “experienced a life-threatening situation”(Hyams 403). This is one of the most terrible things a country could do to its veterans and may have caused a lot more serious problem for the soldiers such as social anxiety.
Social Anxiety is the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgment of one self in public, and inferiority to others. The problems with coming home and the self-hate that the soldiers had developed were significant to the contraction of social anxiety and or social phobia (Orsillo 242). Veterans had many complications trying to adjust back to their original lifestyles. Many Veterans who tested with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) showed signs of social phobia, which is a fear to be in public (Orsillo 242). This act of war made many problems for the soldiers whether it was developing PTSD, social anxiety, being killed, or experiencing marital problems when they arrived home from serving their tours of duty. Studies have shown that “participating in a combat situation like the Vietnam War has led to marital dissolution of 60%”(Ruger 89), which is very high.
An example of this would be that over half the soldiers, when they arrived home, had to deal with marital problems, therefore these problems might have led to a divorce or even other illnesses described earlier. How could someone handle being in a war for the last six months and then come home to a house full of problems? This question might be one of the most significant causes of social anxiety and social phobia to a Veteran. With all the events a Veteran had just gone through and then coming home to a country full of people who ridiculed them for going to war, but the only reason they went to war was because their country that they live in and respect asked them to go. The citizens who did not get drafted into the war may too have caused a negative impact on the soldiers upon their return to the States.
My father Jack Lyons was a soldier in Vietnam and had experienced the war to its fullest. His tour in Vietnam started in 1965 lasted for six months. He has not told many detailed stories about his time in the war, and I’ve heard that Veterans who’ve experienced war first hand and understand the true meaning of it never really talk about their experiences to anyone. I think this reticent ness is a way to help them, the Veterans of the war, cope with their near death experiences. When I interviewed my dad last week for this essay, he was a little shy at first to tell me about his tour in Vietnam. We discussed in the interview about the many physical affects the soldiers encountered in the war. My father stated, “The heat and the insects were one of the major problems he and his fellow soldiers had to adjust to”(Lyons PI). The heat and insects might be a terrible thing for one to encounter, but it was not as bad as being shot at, shot, or killed in action. “US Forces were embroiled in a vicious guerilla warfare with the Viet Cong”(Wikipedia 2).
The Viet Cong never really met the US Army on an open battlefield and that aspect of their fighting made them even more difficult to defeat. “Not being able to see your enemy in combat, was one of the most horrific things I had experienced in Vietnam”(Lyons PI), said my Father. He went on saying, “that when his company had to travel through the thick jungle, and when they were shot at, all they could do is fall to the ground and shoot in the direction of the sound of the shots that were just fired at them”(Lyons PI). Also he explained, “When you see one of your friends, or if you are in a bad situation, your instincts come into play and you will do whatever you have to do to stay alive”(Lyons PI). Even though my father was one of the lucky soldiers to stay alive during the war and not develop any type of war syndrome, I still believe that the Vietnam War and war in general have negative impacts on the soldiers participating in many various ways.
The Vietnam War had many ways to negatively affect the soldiers by mental, social, and physical problems. The mental, physical, and social problems that the soldiers faced in the war were a minor problem they had in their duration in the war. Their main goal of the war was to stay alive in any way that was necessary. In my opinion the government should never had entered Vietnams civil war and the five hundred thousand soldiers who were sent there, would never had encountered any of these problems caused by the appalling war. The Veterans of the wars in the past and future wars should be highly recognized for what they did no matter what the outcome of the war is and especially should never be criticized for what they did by anyone because many of the people who end up criticizing them will never experience what they had encountered in the war.
Hyams, C. Kenneth MD. Wignall, Stephen MD. Roswell, Robert MD. “War Syndromes and Their Evaluation: From the U.S. Civil War to the Persian Gulf War.” Annals of Internal Medicine. Volume 125. (1996): 398-405.
Laufer, S. Robert. Gallops, M.S. Frey-Wouters, Ellen. “War Stress and Trauma: The Vietnam Veteran Experience. “Journal of Health and Social Behavior.” March. 1984: JStor. John M. Lilley Library, Erie, PA. 9 November 2006 www.jstor.org/view/00221465/di976083/97p0374p/0.
Lyons, Jack. Personal Interview. 8 November 2006.
Orsillo, M. Susan. Heimbert, Richar G. Juster, Harlan R. Garrett, James. “Social phobia and PTSD in Vietnam veterans.” Journal of Traumatic Stress. Volume 9. (1996): 235-252.
Ruger, William. Wilson, Sven E. Waddoups, Shawn L. “Warfare and Welfare: Military Service, Combat, and Marital Dissolution.” Armed Forces & Society. Volume 29 (2002): 85-107.
Scringer, C.B. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. New Orleans: Bruno Press, 1984.
Wikipedia. Vietnam. November 10, 2006. .