Panel Discussion: Issues of Diversity in Military Trauma

  • Topic A - Growing at the Barrel of a Gun: Masculinity, Coming of Age, and Combat Trauma

    Justin Snyder, PhD

    This presentation is based on interviews with U.S. combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The sample primarily includes veterans who served in the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Vietnam War.  However, it also includes veterans of all major U.S. military action including and since WWII (Somalia, Korea, etc.).  All veterans described combat as the basis of their coming age, the moment they passed from boy to man.  According to the veterans, their coming of age was an experience of disillusionment that provides them special recognition of the brutality of combat.  Related, the veterans described combat as a primal or animalistic experience.  The veterans appear to be telling two stories at once.  They are telling a military story of how manhood is forged in combat, but they are also telling a “civilian” story about how combat is traumatic.  Both stories classify combat as morally meaningless and bestial.

    Topic B - Diversity and the Role of Leadership: Case Study of Muslims in the Military

    Michelle Sandhoff, PhD

    Following 9/11, long standing boundaries in American society that defined Islam as “other” were re-activated creating a divisive atmosphere of us-versus-them.  Within this context thousands of Muslims chose to serve in the U.S. military.  This presentation explores the experiences of these service members through narrative data collected through interviews with Muslim service members and veterans.  The presenter will illustrate why religious diversity is crucial to the contemporary missions of the U.S. military.  How effective the military is at leveraging this diversity, however, is mediated by issues of unit culture and leadership.