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.
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.