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Characteristics of Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans

This war is being fought by an all volunteer force in a culturally and environmentally different place. Units are trained and deployed together. Regular Army and Marine units are rotated and retrained as a whole. Soldiers enjoy the thanks, respect, and honor from the American public.

A heavy burden is disproportionately effecting National Guard/Reserve Units whose tours have been extended to as much as two years (and likely beyond). Since these units are from the same local communities their stress and grief over wounded and killed brothers and sisters is magnified.

These soldiers lived and trained together for many years prior to deployment. The age range of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan is significant, in some cases 18 years old to mid 50 year olds (fathers and sons) in many National Guard units. These soldiers may be more prone to stress due to the short warning before deployment and receive less training than regular combat units.

Women are playing a more significant combat role for the first time in US history. These are patriotic men and women who went to war believing they were saving the world from weapons of mass destruction and to destroy the support base for the 9/11 attack on their country. As the war continues in a disputed quagmire, cognitive dissonance weighs heavy on their minds in seeking a justification for their role in the war.

The mental health effects on the Vietnam Veteran were not substantially studied until ten to fifteen years after the war. The mental health reactions of the Iraqi and Afghanistan veteran may become the most examined in US History. In a 2004 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine more than 6,000 soldiers were surveyed in the months before and within four months after their service. (Hoge, CW, et al).

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(U.S. army.mil/Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander)