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Characteristics of Vietnam Veterans

As a society, including the mental health profession and the existing veteran’s support organizations, we have failed to recognize the spiritual and moral conflict experienced by our participation in the Vietnam conflict. This spiritual and moral conflict (or change in the personal soul) perhaps lies at the very root of the guilt and shame experienced by many Vietnam veterans. Vietnam veterans often experience guilt of participation and guilt of having survived while many of their brothers did not.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (1990) reports a PTSD incidence of 30.9% for men and 26.9% for women Vietnam veterans. Additionally, 22.5% of men and 21.2% of women have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. Therefore, more than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans – about 1,700,000 Vietnam veterans in all – have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.” The legacy of the Vietnam War continues in perhaps a more insidious way with the Veterans Administration now reporting over 45 presumptive diseases, including a variety of lethal cancers, with etiology stemming to Agent Orange.

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