Dr. Norman Rosenthal: As Memorial Day approaches, it is fitting that we remember the debt owed, in the words of Winston Churchill, by so many to so few — those men and women who have fought and, in some cases, paid the ultimate price, so that the rest of us can live in freedom and safety.
Here in Washington, D.C., there will be formal ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery and informal ceremonies at the monuments that mark the wars that claimed too many. Likewise, throughout our great country, people will be remembering, grieving, reflecting.
Allow me to share with you the stories of five veterans, who are very much on my mind this Memorial Day. These five young men participated in a study under my direction to determine whether meditation could help assuage the painful and disabling aftermath of their service in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. While serving, all were exposed to the horrors of war in one form or another. They saw their fellow soldiers and the enemy killed at close quarters, directly experienced the blasts of powerful bombs or improvised explosive devices, and drove along country roads, never knowing when they would drive into the next ambush.
After returning to the U.S., these young men were among the huge number of soldiers and Marines (1.6 million and counting) who have suffered the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of this condition vary, but typically involve hypervigilance (jumpiness, irritability), detachment, avoidance of situations that trigger memories of the traumatic events, flashbacks and nightmares – as memories spring unbidden into consciousness, accompanied by drenching sweat, a pounding heart…