Understanding the Vietnam Veteran
DOI link for Understanding the Vietnam Veteran
Understanding the Vietnam Veteran book
This chapter presents a way of thinking about those who were victimized by their participation in the Vietnam War. By victimized we do not wish to convey the impression that all Vietnam veterans were victims in a traditional sense of being coerced and helpless victims of circumstance. Although one could make such a case, it belies the complexities of the stressors inherent in the Vietnam War. However, victimization as defined by Ochberg in Chapter 1 of this volume includes a sense of humiliation. He writes,
the victim often feels diminished, pushed down in a hierarchy of dominance, exploited, and invaded. These terms describe the act of victimization as much as they describe the ensuing feelings of the victim .. . . Victimization should suggest a transient state of personal disequilibrium, beginning with unanticipated trauma and ending with survivor status or reequilibration. But since we have
so little language to explain victimization and few culturally accepted rituals of support, it becomes the task of the therapist to normalize the process. (p. 11)
Clearly, this definition of victimization applies to many of the veterans of the Vietnam War since they often were rejected, exploited, and pushed down by government and society both during and after the war. Victimization was compounded by denial of adequate benefits, the lack of proper treatment for mental disorders associated with combat, and inadequate educational and vocational benefits. In order to understand this phenomenon more precisely, it is necessary to know something about the nature of the Vietnam War, the typical warrior who fought it, and the unsympathetic environment to which he or she returned on the long road home from Southeast Asia.