PTSD and the US soldier

Veterans are using Whisper to share the most intimate details of their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

*NOTE: This article was published soon after the latest shooting at Army Base Fort Hood in Texas.


The shooting at Fort Hood earlier this month reignited an important national conversation concerning the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military veterans — particularly those who have seen firsthand the true nature of combat.

For the tens of thousands of current and former service members who have turned to Whisper to find like-minded individuals with similar experiences with whom to commiserate, that conversation didn’t require reignition.

Whisper protects its users’ anonymity by never requesting any type of personally identifiable information, meaning that users’ identities remain entirely unknown — and unknowable — to other users.

That anonymity provides vets with the sense of security they need to have a frank and open dialog about taboo subject matters such as guilt, emotional conflict, and the internal war that remains long after the external battles have ended.

The chart below illustrates the relative number of times the term “PTSD” has been mentioned by users stationed at the top five largest military bases in the United States. Note th

PTSD chart from US military bases

at despite being the third largest base, Fort Hood is first in total number of PTSD-related Whispers:

This chart is clearly telling, but charts can only tell us so much. To truly understand the trouble with PTSD, it’s necessary to talk about it with someone who truly understands: veterans with PTSD.

Using Whisper’s anonymous messaging platform, I reached out to several current and former service members who had been using Whisper to discuss their ongoing struggles with PTSD, its symptoms, and its life-altering side effects. Following are some of the invaluable lessons they taught us. Whisper obtained consent from all users mentioned below to share their stories publicly.

It could be something as simple as a movie or a sudden loud noise,” noted user John Doe [real username redacted], a marine based out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

John Doe served nine months in Afghanistan and saw his best friend die in his arms after being shot in the neck 250 miles from the nearest medical facility.

“Or,” he continued, “since I live near a military base, they do training from time to time and during that training they do some bombing and that also triggers flashbacks.”

“You are hardwired to survive, to keep the guy next to you alive,” said “Wandering Warrior,” a veteran of two tours — Iraq and Afghanistan — who still serves today. “It doesn’t matter who he is or if you hate him. You know that he will die for you and you’d die to get him back to his newborn son. When you care about another human being like that so intensely for a period of time and experience the things that war is made of, you come home and life is foreign.”

“Most people I know with PTSD look normal and act normal,” he continued. “They have regular jobs and careers. It’s when you go home and lay alone at night that it hits you.”

“At first I was fine,” he insists. “Then the honeymoon period wore off. Then it’s the small things. Petty things irritate you; people whining about small, daily crud at the office. You want to ignore them or tell them to take it somewhere else. You don’t have time for it; you’ve been in second-to-second life-and-death situations. The bigger things matter.”

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Military Suicide Report