Friday, September 17, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 19

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Veterans may suffer after war

Lack of support, cohesion may damage troops, lecturer says

By Ann Nguyen
Contributing Writer

The damaged psychological and moral condition of troops returning from war is a result of their treatment at the hands of military leaders and trainers, Jonathan Shay said in a lecture Wednesday night.

Shay, of the Tufts University Department of Psychiatry, was guest speaker at a UH Honors College lecture examining Vietnam War veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He specializes in the psychological and moral effects of warfare on soldiers.

He said three factors are crucial in the prevention of psychological and moral injuries among troops returning from war: cohesion, properly supported leadership and training.

Cohesion is the mutual attachment and recognition among troops, Shay said. "Horizontal cohesion among the troops will cause them to care for one another," he said. "The soldiers act like fierce mothers with their young, a self-sacrificing nature."

Max Lacayo/The Daily Cougar

Jonathan Shay of Tufts University speaks Wednesday evening during an Honors College lecture on the psychological and moral effects of warfare.

If a soldier's character is not shaped properly during training, it could undergo serious breakdown in war, Shay said.

"If the military can take these three factors into consideration when training and disciplining the soldiers (in units), they will come home in the same mental and emotional state in which they left," he said.

Among those attending the lecture were Vietnam veteran Danny Richards and his wife, Lynn. Richards is among the veterans concerned with the well-being of today's troops in training for potential combat.

Richards described the painful nature of warfare and the even more damaging experience of coming home to a country that often reviled those who fought in Vietnam.

Richards suffers from the psychological stress his experiences caused, which have taken the form of a disorder that does not allow him to fully adjust to civilian life.

"It is hard for him to be around crowds, because he feels smothered," Lynn Richards said. "He has not been able to overcome that, and I think it is solely due to the war."

"It was a rude awakening when we came home," Danny Richards said. "It was hard to live in a society that hated you."

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