Each year, the Wounded Warrior Project releases its Annual Alumni Survey in order to educate veterans, active combatants, and civilians on the many issues facing individuals returning from war. For example, 80 percent of war veterans have a close friend who was either killed or severely injured in the line of duty. Unsurprisingly, the 2014 survey revealed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as one of the most common challenges facing returning veterans, second only to sleep disorders.
PTSD can manifest in veterans in several ways. The more widely known symptoms include unwanted memories of the traumatic event pervading a person’s daily life, including in the form of reoccurring nightmares. Flashbacks are another symptom of the disorder, and are distinct from memories and dreams. During a flashback the brain literally functions as if the event were happening again, sending the body into a state of panic and playing on the fight-or-flight response. Signs of trauma can begin within three months of the event or experience, though some veterans do not demonstrate symptoms for more than a year. This time frame makes support communities such as the Wounded Warrior Project critical to identifying and dealing with the disorder.