Combat Loss and PTSD – Part 8: Conclusion and Bibliography

This is a paper about how infantrymen in the United States Marine Corps handle combat deaths. It was researched and written by Stephen Smith, Th.M., in partial fulfillment for a seminary course on Death and Dying. While Steve has never experienced the dark side of man, his twin brother – me – has. Together, we offer this paper in eight parts. Footnotes follow at the end of each section.

This post, Part 8, offers a brief conclusion and a list of references and resources for further information about infantrymen’s reaction to combat. The previous sections can be read by clicking on the titles below.

Part 1: Post 9-11 CasualtiesPart 2: The Link Between Combat and PTSDPart 3: Learning to Kill – Part 4: Preparing for DeathPart 5: When the Metal Hits the Meat – Part 6: Memorials and Unit Healing – Part 7: When the War Continues – PTSD – Part 8: Conclusion and Bibliography


A Marine returns fire in Afghanistan.

A Marine returns fire in Afghanistan.

The purpose of citing so many statistics in the first part of this paper was to reinforce the reality that PTSD is a very normative experience for infantry Marines who have seen combat. The body naturally reacts to danger in ways which are not easily forgotten.[1] The personal anecdotes and stories shared by Marines in the middle portion of this paper shows that very brave and courageous people suffer from PTSD as a result of combat trauma they have experienced. It is important for both these Marines and the society at large which sends them into battle, to realize that there is a normal human cost to such trauma. Karl Marlantes writes:

Warriors will always have to deal with guilt and mourning. It is unfortunate that the guilt and mourning reside almost entirely with those asked to do the dirty work. Choosing to fight for the right reasons can assuage this guilt. Mourning can lessen it. But all warriors or erstwhile warriors will need to understand that, just like rucksack, ammunition, water, and food, guilt and mourning will be among the things they carry. They will shoulder it all for the society they fight for.[2]

The society they fight for must never forget to remember and honor such wounded warriors.



Abbot, Sebastian. “Marines in deadly Afghan valley face combat stress,” /s/ap/20110306/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan_combat_stress, Accessed 11/12/12.

Armstrong, Keith; Best, Suzanne; Domenici, Paula (2009-05-01). Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families. Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

“Being a Marine.” Accessed 11/19/12.

Burns, Robert. “Military Suicide Rate Surges To Nearly One Per Day This Year” Huffington Post, 6/7/2012, Accessed 11/29/12.

Busch, Benjamin (2012-03-20). Dust to Dust: A Memoir (p. 195). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Coleman, Cpl. Damany S. “Camp Lejeune to receive premier facility for TBI, PTSD treatment, research facility,” From Camp Lejeune Globe, Posted June 21, 2012. Accessed 11/15/12.

“Combat Operational Stress: A Leader’s Guide.” deployments/combatopsstress/generalinfo.cfm. Accessed 11/15/12

“Death of a Unit Member: Leader’s Guide” Deployments/CombatOpsStress/deathunitmember.htm Accessed 11/15/12.

Erickson, Judy. “Marine Corps Wages War on PTSD” Camp Pendleton Patch, July 14, 2011. Accessed 11/15/12.

“Faces of the Fallen.” Accessed 11/18/12.

Fick, Nathaniel. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Finley, Erin P. (2011-05-18). Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work). Cornell University Press. Kindle Edition.

Grice, Lt. Col. Michael D. “Leading With PTSD: Suffering From What They Have Experienced” Marine Corps Gazette. From, Accessed 11/15/12.

Grossman, Dave; Christensen, Loren W. (2011-05-10). On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace. Human Factor Research Group, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave. On Killing. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1996.

“Helplessness Was the Worst Part, I Think” -was-the-worst-part-i-think.16/ Accessed 11/16/12.

Hoge, Charles W., M.D.. Once a Warrior–Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home–Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI (Kindle Locations 266-270). Kindle Edition.

Kime, Patricia. “Report: DoD does not know if PTSD programs work” Marine Corps Times 7/13/2012. Accessed 11/15/12.

Lyon, Chris. The Soldier’s Load,

Marlantes, Karl. Matterhorn. New York: Grove Press, 2011.

Marlantes, Karl. What it is Like to Go to War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011.

Mokenhaupt, Brian. “A State of Military Mind.” From June 12, 2012. Accessed 11/15/12

“Navy SEALs,” accessed 11/15/12

Petronio, Capt. Katie. “Get Over It: We Are Not All Created Equal” Marine Corps Gazette Accessed 11/19/12.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Military Statistics” ccci/additional/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_ptsd_military_statistics. Accessed 11/15/12.

Powers, Rod. “The Cost of War.” Accessed 11/15/12.

“Sadness,” From Accessed 11/15/12.

Smith, Nathan A. “A Legion of Shadows.” The Soldier’s Load, /2012/03/06/a-legion-of-shadows/

Smith, Nathan A. “Explaining the Inexplicable.” The Soldier’s Load, /2012/01/16/explaining-the-inexplicable/

Smith, Nathan A. “Fallen Angel.” The Soldier’s Load, fallen-angel/

Smith, Nathan A. “The Greatest Good.” The Soldier’s Load, /2012/01/04/the-unpardonable-decision/

Smith, Nathan A. “The Sound and the Fury.” The Soldier’s Load, 2011/09/01/the-sound-and-the-fury/

Smith, Nathan A. “Walls.” The Soldier’s Load,

Smith, Nathan S. “What’s It Like?” The Soldier’s Load, /2012/03/27/whats-it-like/

Smith, Nathan A. Personal conversation with Stephen Smith, 5/20/10.

Smith, Nathan A. Personal conversation with Stephen Smith, 10/29/11.

Smith, Nathan A. Personal conversation with Stephen Smith, 10/28/12.

Smith, Nathan A. Phone interview with Stephen Smith, 11/16/12.

Michelle Tan, Marine Corps Times, 12/18/09. 2009/12/military_deployments_121809w/. Accessed 11/18/12.

Wood, David. “Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans Struggle With Combat Trauma” Huffington Post, 7/04/2012

Wood, David. “U.S. Wounded In Iraq, Afghanistan Includes More Than 1,500 Amputees.” Huffington Post, 11/8/12. Accessed 11/16/12

[1] “The limbic area of the brain is designed to make sure that you never forget any memories having to do with serious danger or disaster that affected you personally. These memories form the impetus that forces you to respond instantaneously when you encounter a similar situation at a future time. Limbic memories in the form of criterion B symptoms can be triggered by any reminder of the war zone, even very minor things, like dust, the smell of diesel fuel, the name of a buddy, the sky, war movies, news, loud noises, a calendar date, an offhand comment someone makes, crowds, trash on the side of the road, an overpass, traffic, a helicopter, kids yelling, dogs barking, raw meat, smoke, a reflection from a window, going into a porta-potty, or being in an enclosed or secluded place. These memories can come flooding back unexpectedly, making you feel like you’re back in the war zone again: body, mind, and soul. Memories having to do with survival are extremely vivid, the most vivid of any of our memories: full color, sound, smells, and feelings with almost the same level of intensity as if they were actually happening now. The limbic part of the brain does not give a damn how miserable you are as a result of being overwhelmed (flooded) with these memories. The job of the limbic system is to ensure that you survive by not forgetting anything that happened during dangerous or threatening situations. These memories are not bound in time. They can be as vivid twenty years later as they were right after they happened.” Charles W. Hoge M.D.. Once a Warrior–Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home–Including Combat Stress, PTSD, and mTBI (Kindle Locations 580-585). Kindle Edition.

[2] Marlantes, p.60.

About Nate

A 2003 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and former Marine infantry officer, Nate is the Chief Operating Officer of Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans get jobs. He holds a Master's in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Nate lives with his wife and dog in Alpharetta, Georgia.
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2 Responses to Combat Loss and PTSD – Part 8: Conclusion and Bibliography

  1. Greg Harris says:

    I just want to say how much your writing has helped me lately through this never ending storm. You have actually pushed me to seek help from my local Vet Center. Something I have been avoiding like the plague for years now. You were an inspirational leader to me and all of my peers in Washington and your lessons were put into action in our deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. I feel the training and wisdom you bestowed upon us was crucial in our endeavors. You have single handily helped many Marines learn what it is to be a man in life, and a leader in the chaos of combat. For that, I am eternally grateful. So thank you Sir. Keep inspiring. Keep teaching. You never know what kind of impact you will have on someones life.

    • Nate says:

      Greg, I am humbled beyond measure by your kind words. More importantly, I am thankful that you have found in these articles validation for what you feel and encouragement to seek assistance – which is a courageous action for which I am very proud of you. Stay in touch and God bless.

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