‘The problem with living through war is the false sense that after combat you are untouchable,’ writes Anthony Swofford in ‘Jarhead,’ his memoir of life as a U.S. Marine in the first Gulf War.
And problematic it is. A recent study in this month’s ‘Archives of General Psychiatry’ by fourth-year health psychology graduate student Judith Pizarro, psychology and social behavior professor Roxane Cohen Silver and psychology and social behavior lecturer JoAnn Prause has revealed that the effects of war go beyond shrapnel wounds, amputated limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The evolutionary tree of Civil War ‘soldier’s heart’ becoming PTSD has another branch: this study reveals that the long-term cardiac, gastrointestinal and nervous health of veterans is related to the nature of their combat experience—and the age at which they went to war.
Gerald Kim was one of those 17-year-old boys who enlisted in the Army for college money, but the August following his third year as a criminology, law and society major, the California native was called up to trade Irvine for Iraq.
Once in training, ‘I did it because I loved being with the soldiers and going out in the field and blowing things up,’ Kim said. ‘[But in combat] every other day we either got blown up or shot at or mortared. We lost four guys.’
For Kim, as time goes on, this particular number will amount to more than individual experiences; according to the study, the number of casualties in his 90-person company, Kim’s age at the time