The prolific novelist and biographer Graves knew all about PTSD. Enlisting in 1914 at the outbreak of war, fresh out of an elite private high school (his class standing made him automatically an officer), he quickly found himself leading men into horror and death in the futile, inconclusive, deadly struggle that was trench warfare.
The war broke men down. Here's how he describes what happened to soldiers:
Graves was severely injured, so much so that his commander wrote his parents that he'd been killed. But, patched together, he insisted on returning to his unit as soon as possible. The war zone was the only place he felt himself.
He was lucky enough to contract severe bronchitis before his unit was again subjected to serious fighting and was sent home as an invalid. (Now there's scary word!) He greeted the Armistice that ended the fighting not with the joy felt by English civilians but with melancholy:
When we send troops to war, we break human beings. No one who serves is unmarked. For a contemporary account of how troops come to be deployed over and over even though they know they've reached their mental limit, read this blog post.
When do we stop doing this?