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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Iraq war is taking a toll on many soldiers, in terms of stress and on morale. Here in Utah, the emotional toll is more subtle.
More Utah servicemen and women than ever are reporting physical and emotional problems from related to their service in the war. That even goes for veterans who come home and think they're fine at first.
The homecomings are sweet when service members are reunited with family and friends. The experience in the war zone is pushed aside for a moment, but in the long run not everyone can keep the carefree spirit.
For a lot of veterans, the experience of random bombings, snipers and physical injury can affect them in lingering, sometimes hidden ways."It's stuff I didn't even realize. It was people pointing it out, \[saying,\] ‘You're kind of touchy here. Why don't you do this or that?' And I thought, ‘You're right. Why am I acting that way?'" said Iraq War veteran James Milne. It took him a year to recognize he needed to process the effects of his experience in Iraq. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one-third of the Utah National Guard troops, more than 2,000 people, are coming home with a significant post-deployment problem. Sometimes it shows up as substance abuse, depression, relationship problems or even is diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, which can be more likely after multiple deployments.
"The more exposure people have to multiple deployment experience, the more likely they are to have problems at home and the readjustment from that," explained Dr. Steven Allen, of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Team.Milne says healing starts by recognizing the signs of trouble and becoming a healthy hero here at home. "If something is happening, you don't have to be the tough guy, you know? I mean, there's a lot of tough guys here, and we can talk about stuff going on here, you know?" he said. The interesting thing about Milne is that he said he had an overall good experience in Iraq, in spite of his injuries. He urges other vets to be aware of how they're feeling.
For local assistance e-mail Maria Fruin, OEF/OIF Veterans.