A high school athlete and leader, Joe enlists in the Army after Sept. 11, 2001.
One year into his college career, he leaves his Midwest home, completes basic training, and reports for duty with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Joe’s first 12-month deployment is in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He is not physically injured but experiences many psychologically traumatic events, including unit members killed in action.
Once home, Joe withholds his symptoms of post traumatic stress, believing he will get better on his own.
Joe also thinks if he reports the nightmares and anxious feelings, others in his unit, especially his commander, will not only think he is weak but won’t allow him to deploy again with his unit.
While home, Joe proposes to his high school sweetheart.
Between training and travel, Joe is only with her and his family for a cumulative 10 months.
Since October 2001, over 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq.
83% of post-9/11 veterans joined the enlisted ranks, while 37% enlisted as a member of the National Guard or the Reserves. The majority joined the Army (37%), but 23% served in the Navy, 23% in the Air Force, 14% in the Marines, and another 3% served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
While 77% of post-9/11 veterans are white males (77%), between the ages of 18 to 34, women serve at a rate unprecedented in history — close to 17% of post-9/11 veterans are female.
99% of post-9/11 veterans have a high school degree (or equivalent) and 72% have spent at least some time taking college courses.
Between 2003 and 2004, troops in country nearly doubled, reaching 130,600. By the following year, average strength grew by another 13,000 to 143,800.View Source
75% of post-9/11 veterans who have been deployed confirmed that they were exposed to traumatic experiences while overseas, including being subject to direct or indirect fire, feeling like they were in danger of being killed, or seeing others die or dead bodies.
Post traumatic stress occurs after someone has seen or lived through a dangerous, scary, or harmful event, like physical assault, combat, accidents, natural disaster, and witnessing death or injury. A naturally occurring response — fear — triggers a "fight-or-flight" response, which is a healthy reaction in the body meant to defend against danger and keep someone safe.
Most people recover from initial symptoms naturally, but those who continue to feel stress or anxiety may be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Roughly 15-20% of post-9/11 veterans come home with symptoms of PTSD.
Whether or not you get PTSD depends on things like:
- The intensity and duration of the trauma,
- Whether friends or loved ones were injured or lost because of the event
- How much help and support occurred after the event.
Symptoms can begin early, or they can begin years afterward.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom (flashbacks, nightmares)
- At least one avoidance symptom (staying away from things that remind of the trauma, disinterest in things that were previously enjoyable)
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms (difficulty sleeping, irritability, tenseness)
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms (negative thoughts, feelings of guilt)
According to a 2011 Pew survey, psychological and emotional problems are most prevalent among post-9/11 veterans who were in combat. About half of those surveyed (49%) say they have experienced PTS symptoms.
According to a RAND study, nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment. View Source