Sebastian Junger Knows Why Soldiers Have a Hard Time Coming Home
The civilian world fails at building lasting bonds
This article was originally published on June 11, 2016.
As the United States approaches its 15th straight year at war, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder have risen to record highs.
But there are no simple explanations for the cause. American soldiers are less likely to engage in combat than their fathers and grandfathers. There is some evidence suggesting that highly-trained soldiers with intense and repeated combat experiences — such as Airborne troops in World War II — develop PTSD at lower rates than their less-experienced counterparts.
According to author and journalist Sebastian Junger, we can’t simply look to combat as the driving force behind PTSD. Humans evolved to fight, and we’re good at it. We’re even more effective when organized in platoons: small, tightly-knit groups of soldiers who share a deep sense of comradery, loyalty and purpose.
In his new book Tribe, Junger argues that soldiers return from war to a society where people are far less trusting — and far more isolated — than inside the tribal, micro-society of a combat infantry unit. The latter organization may be psychologically sounder, despite the extreme danger, than the atomized reality of modern America.