In a career that has stretched more than two decades, Anne Freund has spent time with countless combat soldiers and veterans. In many ways, their stories all proved the same: They returned from war-torn lands different — sometimes distant and withdrawn, sometimes paranoid and restless.
“Nobody returns from war unscathed; they come back changed in some way or another,’’ said Freund, who treated combat veterans in private practice and as a Veterans Administration therapist.
“About 80 percent of the soldiers coming back suffer from natural post-combat reactions. The others have more severe symptoms that fall in the disorder category.’’
Freund, a licensed clinical psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Gainesville, wrote Taming the Fire Within: Life After War (Bravehearts, $16.95) to help veterans and their families identify the normal psychological reactions that can accompany post-war life and distinguish them from clinical post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
And with thousands of veterans returning from 10-year wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some after multiple-deployments, the need has never been greater. That is why the author has decided to give away digital copies of her book to veterans. Taming the Fire is available to download at wwe.com/military/taming-the-fire-within.
Conversational and straight-forward, the book offers a guide to surviving the quietly tumultuous chapters after war and suggests steps to keep those reactions from escalating to PTSD. Freund said she hopes it will allow veterans to talk openly about their feelings, share their experiences with their families and, if needed, seek professional help.
“You have all these men and women feeling the same way but nobody talks about it,’’ Freund said. “It does not matter the war, the era, the silence is the same.’’
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the author of two well-known military works, On Killing and On Combat, said the book offers important insight into the stresses of combat.
“Reading this book after your combat experience is vital to helping you understand what is happening to your mind and body after the fact,’’ Grossman wrote in the introduction of Taming the Fire.
The book includes nearly 200 images from wars spanning more than a century. One photo shows World War I machine gunners in France in 1918. Another features a Marine cleaning his weapon in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, in 1968. And still another photo shows soldiers patrolling a checkpoint in Afghanistan in 2010.
Freund says the images and text together are meant to help veterans realize they are not alone.
“Going all the way back to the Civil war, the uniforms and weapons and terrain change, but the faces and body language and reactions to similar situations do not,’’ she said. “I wanted the book to reflect the universal human toll of war.’’