Nate Self's military record was impeccable. A West Point graduate, he led an elite Army Ranger outfit and established himself as a war hero in March 2002 for his leadership during a 15-hour ambush firefight in Afghanistan. The battle resulted in a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a position as President Bush's guest of honor for the 2003 State of the Union. But by late 2004, Self had walked away from the Army. In another surprise attack, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had taken his life captive.

"I just hated myself," says Self. "I felt like I was somebody different. And since I didn't feel like I could be who I was before, and hated who I was now, I just wanted to kill the new person. I felt like I had messed up everything in my life. The easiest way, the most cowardly way to escape, was to just depart."

When Andrea Westfall returned from her 10-month deployment in Kuwait with the Oregon Army National Guard in 2003, she too found herself fighting an invisible battle with PTSD. Unable to cope with the enemy, she isolated herself and drank every night to numb the pain and aid sleep.

Self and Westfall are among the untold number of soldiers who leave the battlefield only to fight another war in their mind and spirit. Studies show that nearly one in five returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, an anxiety disorder introduced into the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. Reported wartime PTSD cases jumped roughly 50 percent in 2007; Army statistics showed there were nearly 14,000 newly diagnosed cases in 2007, compared with more than 9,500 new cases the previous year and 1,632 in 2003. About 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with PTSD since 2003. Officials believe ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Divine Devolution Subscriber Access Only
Robert Wright thinks God is okay, as long as he behaves like a secular humanist.
Current Issue5 Books More Christian High Schoolers Should Read
5 Books More Christian High Schoolers Should Read Subscriber Access Only
Matthew Farrelly recommends some overlooked classics.
RecommendedA.D. 70 Titus Destroys Jerusalem
A.D. 70 Titus Destroys JerusalemSubscriber Access Only
When the Roman general sacked the temple, the Jews were forced into a new era—and so were the Christians.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickThe March for Science Is Willing to Get Political. But Will It Welcome Religion?
The March for Science Is Willing to Get Political. But Will It Welcome Religion?
How evangelical scientists square their place in the global movement.
Christianity Today
When the War Never Ends
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.