Military Trauma Working Group


Sam Coleman, PhD, MSW,


Our role, as VFP members who hate war, is to speak truth to the causes of veterans' psychological pain and work for its amelioration.  We strive to:

  • create new alliances among veterans, clinicians, researchers and the public for understanding psychological injuries from military service.
  • devise ways of reaching out to all veterans who carry the immense burden of their war experiences but do not seek help because they are thoroughly disillusioned and alienated from our country's formal institutions.
  • provide valuable information that is not censored or adulterated by our country's ambient pro-military ideology.
  • cooperate with sister VFP working groups in information exchange.
  • bear witness to the true costs of war in the lives of veterans and their loved ones.

The pandemic has slowed the pace of our activities, but we anticipate more information-sharing as restrictions on interaction loosen up. We invite you to join our e-mail news and information list by contacting Coleman at



Roland Van Deusen's two-minute outreach message on Youtube to veterans, their friends and loved ones, has had over 4,000 views, with high praise and numerous reposting by veterans' organizations and publications.

We must do everything in our power to reduce suicides among veterans. The suicide rate may be leveling off in recent years, but at more than 17 lives every day as of 2018, this rate is totally unacceptable. The self-inflicted death rate is even far worse among women veterans.

NEW: The Faces of Moral Injury

Review: This Is Not a War Story, 2021 [run time 1 hour 52 min].  Directed by Talia Lugacy.  HBO Max

At its best, a motion picture about veterans reveals their most profound afflictions, and writer-director Talia Lugacy achieves this in her superbly crafted This Is Not a War Story, streaming on HBO Max (runtime 1 hour 52 minutes).

The movie compels viewers to care from the get-go by depicting the drug overdose death of a young man on a New York subway. It's Marine corporal Timothy Reyes (Danny Ramirez), who had been in peer counseling with fellow veteran Will La Rue, played by Sam Adegoke. Isabelle Casale, played by Lugacy, is a recently discharged Marine trying to return to her life in Brooklyn. She meets Will at a veterans' art collective, and their interactions revolve around mutual struggles to come to terms with military trauma. Isabelle's dysfunctional family isn't making it any easier, either. Her mother had disowned her after she enlisted because she had defied the mother's "womanly" aspirations for her daughter.

Read full review here.

Documentaries and Educational Videos

Wartorn 1861-2010.  2010.  Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Directors / HBO. The late James Gandolfini co-produced this documentary, and he appears in many scenes as an interviewer. The viewer who listens carefully can benefit mightily from watching this documentary. Perhaps the most powerful features of this film are its historical depth and the remarkable intimacy that veterans and their families allow the camera. This video can help a lot to normalize a veteran's distress, and that's a crucial ingredient in seeking help. The production quality is excellent also. I can't praise the production without some qualification, though. Woman veterans got scant attention, and the top brass whom Gandolfini interviews--Raymond Odierno and Peter Chiarelli--are on their best sympathetic behavior, not only because of the enormity of the problem of PTSD -> psychological war wounds, but because one of America's most famous actors is holding the microphone.  

Another Kind of Valor.  2008.  Dan E. Weisburd, Director / California Institute for Mental Health. Weisburd is a major figure in California NAMI. This educational docudrama set is offered as a way to teach a variety of viewing audiences, from family members to clinicians, about a number of mental conditions among returning veterans. Endorsements ring with virtuous adjectives. This set of four DVDs is valuable for seeing different techniques applied, especially eye movement and desensitization reprocessing (EMDR).

The Invisible War.  2012.  Kirby Dick, Director / Cinedigm. This Oscar-nominated documentary lays bare the shocking extent of sexual assaults in the US military and the toll they take on women's (and men's) lives.  Like the other documentaries recommended here, it owes much of its power to the brave people who stepped forward to reveal their experiences. The movie also presents for critique the lame band-aid "educational" approaches that military bureaucrats concocted in response to the rape epidemic. The Invisible War created a deservedly high-profile splash among politicians and policymakers, but those who study attempts at reforming the military would do well to follow up on the ways in which the DOD and its legislative supporters mobilized to deflect attempts at genuine reform.

American Experience: My Lai.  2010.  Barak Goodman, Director / PBS. This documentary doesn't ostensibly concern“moral injury” or PTSD -> psychological damage from combat, but it does a remarkable job of laying out all of the conditions that led to an atrocity and the military bureaucracy's response. The uninformed viewer could regard the 1968 My Lai massacre as a one-off incident, but savvy veterans of all of our recent counterinsurgencies will find the dynamics entirely familiar.


Each of these books also has bibliographies and references you can pursue.

Courage After Fire:  Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families. Keith Armstrong, Suzanne Best, and Paula Domenici.  2006.  Berkeley, CA:  Ulysses Press.  This book is evidently the standard recommendation to laypeople from the mainstream clinical community.  It has received many enthusiastic reviews from readers facing readjustment problems after deployment. There is much solid, valuable advice here, but some of this book's suggestions assume middle class resources and jobs--like "working out at the gym" and "asking your boss for a work schedule that fits best with your family life."  Discussion of guilt is confined to survivor guilt and seeing (as opposed to perpetrating) civilian deaths.  Evaluations particularly welcome!

When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home:  How All of Us Can Help Veterans. Paula J. Caplan.  2011. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.  This highly readable work contains helpful and reliable advice for concerned loved ones of veterans.  Caplan gives friends and family members the confidence they need to communicate with the veterans they care about.

Shade It Black:  Death and After in Iraq. Jessica Goodell.  2011. Philadelphia, PA: Casemate.  This book contains a wealth of insight into the experiences of a woman marine, along with some insightful observations about culture shock on return to civilian society.

They Were Soldiers:  How the Wounded Return from America's Wars--the Untold Story.  Ann Jones.  2013. Chicago, IL:  Haymarket Books.  First-rate journalism from a seasoned observer who writes beautifully. If you could use a reminder that veterans' services must be liberated from DOD abuses, this is it.

Chapter Four, "Invisible Wounds:  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," pages 158 - 209 in Gerald Nicosia's 2001 Home to War:  A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement.  New York, NY: Crown Publishers.  Clinicians, know the struggle to recognize PTSD->war-related psychological syndromes!

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