A veteran’s wife should know better

My friends and I, and countless combat veterans across the country, suffer quietly each day. In an effort to summarize post-war trauma, we are presented with four little letters: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Despite how obtuse and inadequate this description can feel, there is a certain degree of comfort in a diagnosis, and an assured calm comes with knowing that youâÄôre not abnormally weak-minded or faint-hearted. Returning veterans are assured that some post-traumatic stress symptoms are a normal part of the reintegration process, but last week, Cindy McCain âÄî in her infinite wisdom and psychological expertise âÄî told us otherwise. When asked about her husbandâÄôs post-P.O.W. days and if heâÄôd ever experienced any PTSD issues, she said it was âÄúin the pastâÄù and that he âÄúdoesnâÄôt dwell on it.âÄù (Sorry, madam âĦ but your husbandâÄôs eagerness to bring it up would suggest otherwise.) The reporter prodded a bit more: âÄúNo cold sweats in the middle of the night?âÄù To which she emphatically replied, âÄúOh no, no, no, no, no âĦ he was trained to do what he was doing. The guys who had the trouble were the 18-year-olds who were drafted. He was trained, he went to the Naval Academy, he was a trained United States naval officer and so he knew what he was doing.âÄù How enlightening. If only I knew what I was doing, I wouldnâÄôt be having these wretched nightmares. Until her informative comments, I was unaware that you could train away a nightmare. I wish IâÄôd received that training. If Cindy McCain has any sense of decency, sheâÄôll retract her statements and offer an apology to the veterans who secure her a life of comfortable ignorance. (This story doesnâÄôt seem to have legs, so I wonâÄôt hold my breath.) To suggest that the only troops who suffer from PTSD are the 18-year-old draftees is not merely ludicrous; itâÄôs ignorant, insulting and incredibly demeaning. Beyond revealing an extreme lack of intelligence and an even greater lack of grace, Cindy McCainâÄôs comments further the myth that the strong-minded are granted immunity from PTSD and that these invidious letters only attach themselves to the young and lily-livered. Post-traumatic stress does not discriminate, it does not lend itself to only the weak nor is it repelled by personal fortitude. Any suggestions otherwise run afoul to scores of research describing this completely natural reaction to traumatic events. Post-traumatic stress is a term that is widely used, but sparsely understood; Cindy McCainâÄôs comments would be a prime example of commonly held misconceptions. Returning from war is a difficult thing; troubling questions of inner-strength and mental health follow you around like a shadow. Those who have problems are much less likely to seek help in the face of the Cindy McCains of the world; these types of misinformed comments and the mistaken beliefs that inspire them harm the health of our nationâÄôs veterans. The idea that the potential first lady so cavalierly promotes that weak-mindedness, or youth or lack of âÄútrainingâÄù is the root cause of post-traumatic stress curbs a veteranâÄôs inclination to seek help and belongs nowhere near the Oval Office. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]