“Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of [a] million dollar equipment, [and] back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars.” This is from the scene in First Blood, where John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) broke down in front of his former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) towards the ending of the film.
First Blood is and will be one of my favorite films and it’s rather interesting just how much his character relates to some veterans today. The movie was released in 1982 and is based on the 1972 novel of the same name, which was written by David Morrell. In the book, Rambo commits suicide at the end, but in the movie, the beloved character was given an alternative ending in order to continue with the film’s three sequels. Rambo was like every other soldier; well trained, disciplined, loyal to his country and ready to give his life for his fellow citizens. “[He was] a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam veteran who must rely on his combat and survival senses against the abusive law enforcement of a small town.”-Wikipedia. After seven years of being discharged from the military, Rambo traveled on foot to visit one of his comrades in the small town of Hope, Washington. When he arrived, he found out that his friend had passed away from cancer, which he developed as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Instead of leaving the town, Rambo continued to wander around only to come across the town’s vile sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). He asked the Sheriff for directions to a diner, but was driven out of town instead and because he refused to leave, he was then arrested. Rambo fought his way out of jail, which ultimately sparked a vicious manhunt. Based off of my limited knowledge in the field of psychology, most of his decisions in the movie can be looked at as those of someone with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-a form of mental illness that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as war and sexual assault. Sadly, most of our veterans today are suffering from this dreadful illness, which can lead to several other psychological illnesses, as well as, homelessness and addictions.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that “PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans.” The numbers may seem small in comparison, however, it is enough to persuade the military to take more action into providing better care for our veterans. Based on recent PTSD statistics, it was reported that “17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.” Last summer, I met a young woman in Florida named Chrissy, who is part of the 11 percent of Veterans from the war in Afghanistan. Although she hadn’t experienced rape, Chrissy lost her parents at an early age as a result of a car accident, and so she suffers from depression and addiction, as well as PTSD. She is also a mother to a beautiful baby boy, but due to her illness, she often spends time away from him whenever she experiences an episode. During our discussion, we both agreed that the military isn’t doing enough to reintegrate veterans back into society, something Rambo could’ve benefited from. They go through vigorous physical and mental training in order to be combat-ready and once they’ve passed all requirements, they’re deployed to their specific locations around the world. Now, when they’ve completed their missions and are ready to be discharged, there’s little to no counseling prior to their exit. According to Chrissy, they’re given their discharge papers and a pat on the back wishing them luck on the outside, similar to the treatment prisoners receive. Although there are resources available to our vets, it’s not always utilized. Many vets are sometimes too ill to even realize that there’s a problem and so he or she may not seek help in time, which can lead to an array of additional issues. The consensus remains that upon dismissal, each veteran should be offered extensive counseling prior to reintegration. It’s not only a good idea for the individuals, but also for communities nationwide because the violence and murder rates among veterans are steadily rising. According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, “nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12 percent of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.”
“After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and sixteen wounded.”-The Nation. We hear about these acts of violence being committed by our service men and women suffering from PTSD far too often. Although males mostly perpetuate these acts, women too, experience bouts of violence. Based upon data from 2011-2012 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 1,400 female veterans were imprisoned with another 1,600 jailed. For every female jailed there are just as many, who are experiencing abuse and neglect from her spouse battling PTSD. It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate is significantly higher among female veterans with an estimated 15 percent of females between the ages of 18-24 and another 10 percent between the ages of 25-34. Sadly, 9.8 percent of our homeless veterans are females and this is a problem that our military should address.
In First Blood, Rambo was showcased as a nuisance, a lost soul, a troublemaker, a wanderer and a dangerous man. Behind his “damaged” exterior was a resourceful and fair man with great leadership skills, who would’ve thrived in a position of authority if given the chance. Never mind the sight of powerful machinery and a gorgeous human evading the law, Rambo was a hero to 12-year-old me because he consistently fought for what he believed in and never feared questioning authority. With proper care, this character would’ve been a much better person and that too is true for veterans like Chrissy. Our military needs to work harder at protecting and helping all veterans, but because women are at a greater disadvantage, they deserve to receive an extra 50 percent of the help currently offered. The treatment Rambo received from law enforcement is what we should strive to not do to our troubled veterans. Instead, be proactive and get him or her the help they so desperately need without ostracizing the individual.
If you or any veteran alike is experiencing hardships, please visit these websites for more information: