This is a paper about how infantrymen in the United States Marine Corps handle combat deaths. It was researched and written by Stephen Smith, Th.M., in partial fulfillment for a seminary course on Death and Dying. While Steve has never experienced the dark side of man, his twin brother – me – has. Together, we offer this paper in eight parts. Footnotes follow at the end of each section.
This post, Part 8, offers a brief conclusion and a list of references and resources for further information about infantrymen’s reaction to combat. The previous sections can be read by clicking on the titles below.
Part 1: Post 9-11 Casualties – Part 2: The Link Between Combat and PTSD – Part 3: Learning to Kill – Part 4: Preparing for Death – Part 5: When the Metal Hits the Meat – Part 6: Memorials and Unit Healing – Part 7: When the War Continues – PTSD – Part 8: Conclusion and Bibliography
The purpose of citing so many statistics in the first part of this paper was to reinforce the reality that PTSD is a very normative experience for infantry Marines who have seen combat. The body naturally reacts to danger in ways which are not easily forgotten. The personal anecdotes and stories shared by Marines in the middle portion of this paper shows that very brave and courageous people suffer from PTSD as a result of combat trauma they have experienced. It is important for both these Marines and the society at large which sends them into battle, to realize that there is a normal human cost to such trauma. Karl Marlantes writes:
Warriors will always have to deal with guilt and mourning. It is unfortunate that the guilt and mourning reside almost entirely with those asked to do the dirty work. Choosing to fight for the right reasons can assuage this guilt. Mourning can lessen it. But all warriors or erstwhile warriors will need to understand that, just like rucksack, ammunition, water, and food, guilt and mourning will be among the things they carry. They will shoulder it all for the society they fight for.
The society they fight for must never forget to remember and honor such wounded warriors.
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 “The limbic area of the brain is designed to make sure that you never forget any memories having to do with serious danger or disaster that affected you personally. These memories form the impetus that forces you to respond instantaneously when you encounter a similar situation at a future time. Limbic memories in the form of criterion B symptoms can be triggered by any reminder of the war zone, even very minor things, like dust, the smell of diesel fuel, the name of a buddy, the sky, war movies, news, loud noises, a calendar date, an offhand comment someone makes, crowds, trash on the side of the road, an overpass, traffic, a helicopter, kids yelling, dogs barking, raw meat, smoke, a reflection from a window, going into a porta-potty, or being in an enclosed or secluded place. These memories can come flooding back unexpectedly, making you feel like you’re back in the war zone again: body, mind, and soul. Memories having to do with survival are extremely vivid, the most vivid of any of our memories: full color, sound, smells, and feelings with almost the same level of intensity as if they were actually happening now. The limbic part of the brain does not give a damn how miserable you are as a result of being overwhelmed (flooded) with these memories. The job of the limbic system is to ensure that you survive by not forgetting anything that happened during dangerous or threatening situations. These memories are not bound in time. They can be as vivid twenty years later as they were right after they happened.” Charles W. Hoge M.D.. Once a Warrior–Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home–Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI (Kindle Locations 580-585). Kindle Edition.
 Marlantes, p.60.