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Eye Witness To The Horrors Of War

CBS News has reported extensively on the mental and physical health of American service members fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the many veterans who have returned home. We have chronicled the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an increase in veteran suicides and a VA system grappling to deal with the big issues. We recently had the opportunity to hear first hand from a colleague who is looking to answer one fundamental question about war: what does it actually take to trigger PTSD?

Kelly Kennedy is a health reporter for Army Times. A former soldier who served in the first Gulf War and Mogadishu, Somalia, she embedded last summer as a journalist with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry in Adhamiyah, Iraq - a neighborhood in Baghdad. Even though Kennedy says she doesn't have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her trip, she says she understands how the emotional repercussions of war could develop into a full-blown disorder.

Kennedy is the author of a four-part series called Blood Brothers, a you-are-there account of the daily struggle to hunt insurgents, dodge roadside bombs-- often hitting them-and treat the physical and emotional wounds of the soldiers in the hardest hit unit since Vietnam.

"I was numb," is how Kennedy describes readjusting to life after Iraq. "I remember talking to the guys about how you have to feel things or else things are going to get worse. If you can tell the stories enough times, then the details won't have as much an effect on you as they would the first time you tell the story."

She says in the weeks following her return she was distracted, not paying attention and driving through stop signs and red lights. She says she knows from experience how easy it is for servicemen to return home and "shut down" because communicating those experiences can be too difficult and stressful.

For every five soldiers, who leave Iraq with no PTSD symptoms, one is currently suffering from PTSD or major depression - according to a study from the Rand Corporation.

Kennedy spoke with CBS News investigative producer Michael Rey and Kim Lengle, who produced the video.

By Michael Rey