Soldiers of the Army Reserve 883rd Combat Stress Control Company from Devens, who will soon be off to their second tour of duty in Iraq, attended a farewell ceremony in Boston yesterday.
The unit is made up of reservists who are psychiatrists, social workers, and clinical psychologists. In the past, soldiers with battlefield stress were sent home for counseling. Now, their mental health needs are being met as soon as possible, after witnessing or participating in a traumatic event on the field. A study in 2004 showed 17 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
First Lt. Laura Curtis, a psychiatric nurse who used to work with troubled teens, feels ready for the work that lies ahead.
"I think that it's kind of prepared me for my life in the military, actually, because it's made me be the kind of person who can stay calm under a lot of pressure," she says.
Sending them off were family, friends and Congressman Marty Meehan, who is calling for more mental health resources for veterans. He says that while battlefield counseling is helpful, the government needs to increase mental health services for returning troops.
"When you have people in a situation like Iraq, where they can't tell Iraqi friend from Iraqi foe, where around corners and on streets there are bombs and there is stress 24 hours a day, seven days a week... there are serious mental health consequences, and we ought to be ready as a country to meet the challenges of helping make these Marines and soldiers whole when they return to the United States," he says.
WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports.
This program aired on August 19, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.