Early this month the U.S. Department of Defense made a momentous decision: soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are not entitled to receive Purple Hearts.
That the DOD even reviewed the proposal shows how far acceptance of PTSD as a psychologically real – and devastating – condition has come.
Saybrook Psychology faculty member Stanley Krippner, author of “Haunted by Combat,” says that however good the idea, it was unrealistic to expect the military to extend the Purple Heart to PTSD victims.
“There is no question that PTSD victims can be as badly affected by enemy actions as personnel wounded by weapons or bombs. But that is not the issue,” Krippner said. To decide that a psychological wound meets a criterion set up for physical wounds is to think metaphorically. “But the military is not given to using metaphors when it comes to following regulations.”
Daniel Pitchford, a Saybrook student who works with veterans suffering from traumatic stress, still disagrees strongly with the decision.