While bombs and explosions have been a part of war for generations, reports show that they are more common in modern wars than they were just a short time ago. Even just going back to Vietnam, soldiers who got injured in the line of duty often had firearm-related injuries. Those still happen, but explosion-based injuries are far more common.
“In Vietnam, you were shot,” a military physician said. “In Afghanistan, you’re being blown up.”
This can lead to all manner of substantial physical injuries. For instance, some soldiers take to wearing tourniquets all the time but keeping them loose. This way they can tighten them quickly and prevent blood loss if they lose a limb. The physician said that head, brain and genital injuries are also common.
“There are groups of Marines — three or four deployments — where everybody has been exposed to an IED (Improvised Explosive Device),” he noted. “If you’re standing 20 meters away from one, you’re going to get your head rattled.”
All of this can also lead to significant mental and emotional issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially in cases with head injuries or where soldiers have seen others get seriously injured or killed. The doctor noted that these issues are not new to war, but there is a better understanding of PTSD now.
“In our Civil War, it was called ‘melancholia’ — this desire for home,” he said. “Then it became ‘the irritable heart,’ because the soldiers were shaking. [During the Second World War, they called it] combat neurosis.”
It is important for soldiers to understand these risks and the drastic impact they can have on life after a deployment. Veterans with both physical and mental injuries need to know what options they have.