Iraq War Vets Suffering Stress

U.S. Marines walk during a patrol, in Ramadi, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004. AP

This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
I'm no expert on this stuff, but, I've long suspected that incidences of post-traumatic stress among soldiers and Marines coming out of Iraq would be pretty high.

The military says the number is about four or five percent, which is to be expected. But a new survey among troops returning from Iraq says 30 percent had developed mental health problems three to four months after returning home.

Lt. General Kevin Kiley says among the problems are anxiety, depression, nightmares and anger. So many casualties come not from engaging the enemy in literal combat, but from road side bombs -- the so called IEDs -- and suicide bombers and snipers. Every time you move your life is danger.

I just read this week about how the military is doing a better job of getting its vehicles armored up. Still, think of the stress. Tough. Really tough.

There's a stunning front page piece in this morning's USA Today about some of the Marines in Iraq for their third tour of duty. Young men in their twenties speak of seeing more in the last two years than most men see by the time they're forty. Their commanders are concerned about the wear and tear. And their loved ones are worried too. One grandfather wonders if he'll ever really get his grandson back. And a fiancee says she's watched her future husband grow colder, angrier.

Support the troops? Hell yes. But it will take more than the offer of cold beer and a pat on the back for many of them to feel at home again.



Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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