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How The Military Prepares Soldiers For Civilian Life After Deployment

U.S. Marines fill out research consent forms before taking psychological tests at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. in a program testing hundreds of Marines and soldiers before they ship out.
U.S. Marines fill out research consent forms before taking psychological tests at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. in a program testing hundreds of Marines and soldiers before they ship out.

Ret. Col. Jon Coffin spent ten years debriefing soldiers who were returning from war zones to help identify potential cases of PTSD. He led group debriefings of soldiers while they were still intact with their platoons, after they left the combat theater but before they reunited with their families. Coffin says he asked them three questions: Who are you, and what did you do over there? What did it feel like to touch ground in the U.S.? What moment of your deployment is frozen in your mind, and what do you want to say about it?

That approach to coaching soldiers to talk through their experiences is radically different than what author Karl Marlantes remembers of coming home from Vietnam.  Marlantes draws on his experience in the novel Matterhorn and in the nonfiction book, What It Is Like To Go To War.

Marlantes and Coffin are our guests Wednesday on Vermont Edition to discuss the impact that war has on soldiers and their communities. Both are speaking at the annual William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium at Norwich University this week.

Broadcast live on Wed., April 6, 2016, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Copyright 2016 Vermont Public Radio