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Issue Home August 18, 2007 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Fans Of Ballroom

Many of you have enjoyed watching local favorites on the channel 44 ballroom dancing show on Saturday nights. On Saturday, September 3, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m., WVIA will host a telethon for the ballroom dance show. Local dancers, including Dan and Sheri Wolfe from Susquehanna will be answering phones to raise money for the production of these shows.

In order to keep ballroom dancing on the air, we need your support. Please specify that your contribution is in support of the ballroom show and give the code number 321.

Enjoy watching your favorites on September 8 and weekly throughout the year.


Sheri Wolfe

Susquehanna, PA

Unnatural Born Killers

In World War I it was called shell shock. At the time it was thought that the vacuum created by an exploding artillery shell and the consequent violent inrush of air shocked the brain, hence the term shell shocked. The cause was physical, not psychological.

Many thought that the symptoms of this shock – paralysis, blindness, deafness, mutism, and detachment from reality – were shams. They were dismissed as the "acts" of cowards to escape the trenches. A British general wrote, "There can be no doubt that... shell shock in any unit is an indication of lack of discipline and loyalty."

In WW II it was relabeled battle fatigue, reflecting an enlightened understanding of the injury. Officers could accurately predict just how much combat a soldier could take before battle fatigue affected his performance.

After WW II psychologists retagged this front-line malady once again; it was post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies at last revealed its causes. It wasn't just fatigue, it was the intolerable level of unending stress and something else. PTSD was closely linked to sights of carnage and to another factor no one had suspected; the act of killing fellow human beings.

Seeing scattered bits and pieces of bodies, pools of congealing blood, spattered gray matter mixed with bone fragments is horrific. They are images we will never see. The military carefully censors them; war works best when shrouded in ignorance, otherwise we would lose our stomach for it. But for the grunts on the ground, the scenes will be forever vivid. Equally horrific is the memory of killing. During WW II it was discovered that only 15 percent of combat soldiers would fire at the enemy.

Almost all animals are hardwired not to kill their own kind. Insects, birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals engage in ritualized duels for territory and mates that seldom cause injury. This aversion to killing one's own species is evident in humans, too.

A man may be extraordinarily brave, a model soldier, but to shoot at – let alone kill – another human being would be something he would predictably avoid if possible.

The military addressed this problem by replacing bull's-eye targets with man-shaped silhouettes that would pop up unexpectedly. If a recruit were repeatedly exposed to this exercise, a Pavolian stimulus-response reaction would be imprinted in his behavior. This automatic, conditioned response raised WW II's 15 percent to 55 percent in Korea who fired at the enemy.

Further refinements in training, stressing desensitization and brutalization raised this to 95 percent in Vietnam. But there was a cost. Nam vets suffered the highest level of psychological damage. Suicide, homelessness, divorce, family violence, and inability to sustain employment are symptoms of the military's 95 percent success rate, the horrific nature of war, and the unnatural act of killing kindred humans.

Two questions arise: How many vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will bear these unseen wounds? Currently, there is a backlog of 600,000 GIs suffering PTSD waiting for needed psychological help. And what will be the future effect of battle-borne PTSD on society?

The military is an honorable profession. The fact that at times they are deployed in a dishonorable way is not a reflection on them. Neither are the scars they bear, both physical and psychological, anything less than badges of courage. For the Marines these metals of valor are inscribed with "Semper Fidelis," and for the U.S. Army they read, "This We'll Defend."


Bob Scroggins

New Milford, PA

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