What are some war experiences soldiers don't want to talk about?

Unless you've experienced war, you can't understand that culture that accompanies those memories

What are some war experiences soldiers don't want to talk about?

Photo by Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell/DVIDSHUB

By Military1 Staff

A question recently posted on Quora asked, "What are some of the war secrets or experiences that soldiers don't want to talk about?" Check out these answers and keep the discussion going. Add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Roland Bartetzko, veteran

1. Your mother          

Being in a tight spot, close to death, she is the person that will come to your mind. Not your spouse, not your kids. Not many combat veterans are willing to admit that, though.

2. Death and Dying

Fighting in a battle you are too occupied to think much about death.  But as soon as the situation calms down you start thinking. That might happen even a year after you are out of combat. Especially when you are on a funeral for a comrade and the coffin goes down the grave you think: "That could have been me!"

3. Yourself and the way the war changed you

War takes its toll on every human psyche. It changes profoundly how you think about yourself and the world around you. I saw soldiers that were fighting a war for more than four years. From kids they turned into serious old men. One says for every year of fighting in a war you get 10 years older. These guys barely talked at all anymore.

4. Laughter

After heavy combat some soldiers develop problems to laugh.  Not some superficial laughter, when you're drunk for example.  But the ability to laugh a wholehearted warm laughter without any cynicism. Sometimes it takes years to start laughing again.

5. Losing faith and gaining faith

The extreme experience of combat, the atrocities and killings makes that some soldiers lose their faith. After they return home they might continue practicing their religion, but the bond between them and God is broken.  Others experience the opposite: The constant threat of death and the questions this provokes lead them to faith.


Michael Hannon, Vietnam veteran

I've never trusted someone who claimed to be a combat vet and liked to talk about it. I have been asked to leave PTSD group sessions as I aggressively challenge those who talk about their supposed combat experience as if it was some Hollywood version. I would lose it and tell them to get the hell out of here. They are taking up space needed by vets who need PTSD assistance. They are many.

I once read a reply to a question: “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't, no explanation is possible.” We are forever changed. There are many reasons why a vet does not want to talk about their experience. Likely many are still processing that experience.

I feel we are fortunate to have the VA resources in place to help some and knowing the VA is aggressively trying to expand those resources.

There is something in me that wants to answer your question, but I think that is best left to the observations of a few dedicated journalist and military historians.

Know that every vet does not like to hear, “Thank you for your service.”

Thank me for unimagined feelings of terror, fear of the unknown, questions on trust that will never be answered, seeing indescribable fear in others and incapable of helping them, learning my confidence has limits, questioning my ability to protect anyone … the ‘thank you’ often awakens unwanted reminders of confusing memories.