Among the Walking Wounded: Soldiers, Survival, and PTSD

Author: Colonel John Conrad

Published By: Dundurn Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Colonel John Conrad was a soldier in the Canadian Regular Army for many years before his life was turned upside down.  Sure, his family went long periods without him, but his career was one of service to his country and they dealt with the deployments, even at times of war.  Conrad never had trouble with his deployments before, but returning from a tour in Afghanistan, he discovered that he couldn’t get back to normal life.  He had become one of the walking wounded.

                Among the Walking Wounded: Soldiers, Survival and PTSD is a book about the struggles of Canadian veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  During his stay in Afghanistan, John Conrad had been victim of a double IED attack.  Nothing was left of the suicide bomber except for his head…that much Conrad clearly remembers.  The rest is a blur surrounding an army medic he equates with an angel.  When it was over, a number of his convoy were dead/wounded, but the wounds to Conrad’s psyche would last him forever.

                John Conrad would come home wishing he could return to Afghanistan.  It was there where he felt he could do the most and, though he didn’t quite understand it, it was there he felt most at home.  It was there he could control the terrible thing that was happening to him.   If he was doing soldier’s work, he would be able to force down the feelings of despair and anguish.  There were times when John felt he was two people living inside of one body.  When the stress was on, John would get unreasonably angry and his “doppelganger” would explode, alienating friends, family and co-workers.

                What John was suffering from, although he didn’t know it, was a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that left him feeling survivor's guilt, depression and feelings of inadequacy.  He would go for years undiagnosed, trying to fake his way through life, leaving the Regular Army to become a Reservist, only to discover that his struggles and stresses were still there.  It wouldn’t be until another veteran of the war in Afghanistan confided his issues and told him he could get help quietly with his issues that John Conrad would realize he was not alone.

                Eventually, Colonel John Conrad would get help and, though PTSD never goes away, he would begin to manage the symptoms.  Unfortunately, not everyone suffering from this disorder would get help and the military would never make it very easy to do.  There was a stigma associated with PTSD and many soldiers would rather “tough it out” than ask for assistance and be scrutinized and unkindly labeled.  He would keep quiet about his struggles except among others suffering the same disorder. 

                It was only after suffering a heart attack that Colonel John Conrad realized that he should not stay silent.  He could do the most good for those who had been lost and those still fighting the battle if he told his story.  The colonel’s tale is quite alarming, not simply because of all he suffered, but because of the lack of knowledge and sympathy offered those suffering from PTSD in both the military and society as a whole. 

                Among the Walking Wounded was a bit difficult to read, given the fact that the author kept sliding back and forth through memories and present times.  However, it is precisely this format that makes the book that much more poignant.  In writing it this way, the author gives us insight into the way a PTSD mind works, one incident triggering a memory that triggers an out of ordinary reaction.  Among the Walking Wounded is a must read for anyone who suffers from or knows someone suffering from the effects of PTSD.  It will give those who don’t know what it’s like insight and those who do incentive to get help and move forward in life.


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