Dangling lifelessly in the locker room of a YMCA in central Iowa, Norman Bowker's life tragically ended. Tim O'Brien tells the story of Norman Bowker in the chapter "Speaking of Courage" of his book The Things They Carried (137-154). Once Bowker came back from the war, he spent his days alone circling a lake in his father's Chevy. After a while, he would head down to the A&W to order a burger and fries hoping to find a friend, or just someone to talk to. Bowker had flashbacks of the war, recalling how he let Kiowa go, swearing that he was still alive. Midnight sweats haunted Bowker as well, making it impossible to attain a good night's rest. All of this contributed to the terrible event that took place in the locker room of the YMCA.
Although this happened to a fictional Vietnam veteran, returning soldiers from today's wars are suffering from similar stories. Soldiers coming back from the Iraq/Afghanistan war often have a serious mental illness caused by the stress of serving in the armed forces. The illness is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and can lead to serious consequences. In a recent study by the Army, 21.4 percent of lower-ranking enlisted male soldiers showed symptoms of PTSD (Entous). Throughout O'Brien's book, the soldiers had ways to cope with the stress; however, like Norman Bowker, not all could fully live with the ghosts of the war. Suicide caused by PTSD is a terrible end and is all too prevalent throughout veterans.
In most cases of suicide from PTSD, the soldier feels like there is no reason to live. An article by Andrew Buncombe and Oliver Duff published in The Independent tells a story about an incident that led to suicide. Thirty-five-year-old army reservist Douglas Barber had been back from Iraq for two years, but he was still having memories of the terrible experiences. He was a member of the 1485th Transportation Company of the Ohio National Guard and was called up for active duty in February of 2003....
Cited: Buncombe, Andrew, and Oliver Duff. "The Life And Death Of An Iraq Veteran Who Could Take No More." Theindependent.com. The Independent, 25 Jan. 2006. Web. 7 March 2010.
Elias, Marilyn. "Many Iraq Veterans Fighting An Enemy Within." USAToday.com. USA Today, N.D. Web. 7 March 2010.
Entous, Adam. "Afghan War Taking Psychological Toll On Troops-Army." Reuters.com. Reuters, 13 Nov. 2009. Web. 7 March 2010.
“Iraq, Vietnam, and the Dilemmas of United States Soldiers.” Opendemocracy.com. Open Democracy, 24 May 2006. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.
Keteyian, Armen. “Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans.” CBSNews.com. CBS News, 13 Nov. 2007. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.
O 'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.
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