War, as the saying goes, is hell. But for many who’ve served, the real battle begins when they return home. Welcome to another deep dive here at SOFREP, where we peel back the layers of romanticized heroism to reveal the raw, unvarnished truth about war and its aftermath on warfighters.

Impact of War on the Physical and Mental Health of Service Members

War profoundly impacts the physical and mental health of service members who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our nation. It’s no secret that the trauma of war can take a heavy toll on the mind and bodies of those serving in our armed forces. From PTSD and depression to combat injuries and chronic pain, the impact of war on the health and well-being of our service members is undeniable.

One of the most significant challenges facing our military veterans today is the prevalence of psychological disorders such as PTSD. According to a study by the National Center for PTSD, approximately 15.7% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD. The condition can manifest in various ways, from hypervigilance and nightmares to flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. It can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life.

The effects of war on physical health are equally grave. Many service members return home with chronic pain or injuries sustained during combat. Traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example, is a common injury among military personnel exposed to blast waves from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Department of Defense states that over 450,000 military members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. I happen to be one of them and feel I am in very good company. 

Chronic pain is another significant issue, with some studies suggesting that up to 60% of veterans returning from war experience chronic pain.

It’s not just combat injuries that take a toll on service members’ physical health. Exposure to environmental hazards such as burn pits and other toxic chemicals can lead to long-term health problems. For example, studies have linked burn pits exposure to increased risk of respiratory problems and cancers. At the time, we knew soaking everything in mogas and lighting it on fire probably wasn’t good for you, but we’d deal with that later. Well, my friends, later has arrived, and those burn pits have come back to bite us on the ass like an angry alligator. 

The impact of war on service members’ physical and mental health is undeniable. However, the good news is that there is help available. The VA offers a range of programs and services designed to help veterans cope with the physical and mental health challenges of war. These programs can include everything from PTSD counseling to chronic pain management and rehabilitation services.