Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Invisible Wounds of War

Today I'd like to welcome Smitten Historical Romance author, Janet Grunst ~Denise Weimer

Trauma has been with mankind since the beginning of time. But it took until the late seventeenth century for the physical and emotional consequences of it to be given a name. Traumatic stress can result from any experiences that cause intense anguish. It can begin during or after the event(s), be of short or periodic duration, and be triggered unexpectedly by a myriad of causes.

What we now refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was identified by different names in the past in relationship to war. During the American Revolution, “Nostalgia” was the term for perceived homesickness and a general condition of melancholy. Those who suffered it experienced various problems such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, insomnia, physical weakness, anxiety, apathy, heart palpitations, irritability, fever, and depression. At the time, the effects of battle on men was often viewed as cowardice. Soldiers not only experienced combat but often existed under extreme conditions of exposure and a lack of food and clothing. After the Revolutionary War, some of these soldiers were considered insane. My post on America’s first mental health facility, Eastern State Hospital, established in 1773 in Williamsburg, is found at: In 1985, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation rebuilt a replica of the original hospital on its excavated foundations. It currently operates as a museum.
The public hospital at Williamsburg
During the Civil War, military physicians began reporting service-related anxieties and fears. The expression “Soldier’s Heart” was coined by a cardiologist describing the symptoms of higher blood pressure and heart rate. And as in the Revolutionary War, combat, inadequate provisions, lack of sanitation, and disastrous conditions in POW camps all aggravated mental health issues.

St. Elizabeth's c. 1909-32, National Photo Co.
The Government Hospital for the Insane, founded in 1852 in Washington, D.C., expanded rapidly. Physicians did not know how to treat the trauma symptoms, leaving many soldiers with psychological wounds from the war. The battle trauma that soldiers suffered continued to be attributed to homesickness. Some of these afflicted soldiers were viewed as malingering or weak. Often veterans under treatment at the hospital were embarrassed and referred to the facility as “Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital.”

By the early twentieth century, the medical condition became known as “battle shock.” After WWI, it was referred to as “shell shock” and after WWII, “battle fatigue.”

While many Korean War combat veterans experienced traumatic events, many were not diagnosed or sought mental health treatment for battle fatigue.

It has been suggested that around 30% of returning Vietnam War veterans suffered from mental and emotional stress. A segment of society in the years during and following the war had a contemptuous attitude towards Vietnam veterans, portraying them as war mongers, baby killers, and drug addicts. It likely contributed to the high percentage of those suffering from the disorder. Even popular culture and movies often portrayed these veterans negatively. PTSD was eventually accepted as a diagnosis in 1980.

Fortunately, by the time veterans returned from subsequent wars, there has been acknowledgement, understanding, and treatment available for people enduring the consequences of trauma.

In my October release, Setting Two Hearts Free, both characters have experienced trauma. Donald Duncan joined the Patriot cause for noble reasons, but now the battle is internal. Returning home after six years to Virginia and a new life with Mary is his goal.

Mary Stewart spends the war years with her family at Stewarts’ Green. Daily, she prays for Donald’s safe return, eagerly waiting for him … until that day the evil side of war touches her.

Two hearts changed by a war. Two hearts left hurting and struggling to find the love and trust they once knew.

Janet Grunst is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight who lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her debut novel, A Heart Set Free, was a Selah Award winner. A Heart For Freedom was a Christian Indie Award winner. She also has a novella in The Highlanders: A Smitten Historical Romance Collection. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, inspire, and encourage the reader.



  1. Thanks for posting. An interesting and sensitive discussion about a difficult topic.

  2. I appreciate this post. I have a soft spot for veterans. PTSD has now been the accepted diagnosis for anyone suffering a traumatic event. I think the 30% statistic regarding Vietnam veterans might be low. The true statistic of men from other wars who suffered is probably underestimated as well. Men did not discuss such things. They shoved it down and moved on. Many returned from war and became alcoholics, drug addicts and abusers because it horrors of war weighed heavily on them. Today those who seek help can receive it. I know a few Vietnam Veterans who didn't seek help for their PTSD until just recently. So sad. Thank you for the informative post.

    1. Thank you, Cindy. I too have a heart for veterans. The suffering is very real and it can manifest itself in many ways not only impacting the person but those close to them too. For too many years it just wasn't acknowledged.

  3. Welcome to the HHH blog, Janet. Thanks for the post. I don't know why we didn't (don't) realize that soldiers are going to suffer mentally, when they are sent off to battle when they are children, really. Those of us who are "of an age" realize how young 18 or 19 is, and in earlier times soldiers were younger than that.

  4. Thank you, Connie. You're right war can have devastating affects on young people. Folks of any age can can experience the long-term consequences of trauma.

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  6. Great article, Janet! It’s interesting to see how some things never change. I had three cousins, brothers who all served in Viet Nam at the same time. They did well when they returned but it was stressful to have them all there at the same time. God bless veterans for their service!

    1. God bless them for sure. Many have experienced trials we cannot even imagine. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Great article, Janet. It's interesting that soldiers were even considered cowards when they had mental breakdowns, until science and medicine could unlock how the brain worked and legitimized it. What sacrifices these men and women, who have and still suffer from PTSD, have made! And not to mention how it's affected their families too. I look forward to this wonderful novel releasing!

  8. Thanks, Kathy. Your encouragement means so much.