Heroic contradictions: Religion, machismo and PTS among Mexican, Mexican American and Chicano Vietnam veterans



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Mexican American Vietnam veterans were often sent to war with high expectations for heroism and chances to prove their machismo. When they arrived, their Catholic upbringing clashed violently with their orders to kill the enemy. As soldiers returned home from the war, the transition from killing, violence and heroism to American society caused contradictions for these men. This lack of a peaceful transition led to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress and moral injury that went untreated for decades in most cases. Overall, the Mexican American Vietnam veteran suffered from contradictions between their upbringing and the war they found themselves in which led to symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress and moral injury as they returned home. At the same time, the Chicano Movement exemplified the Mexican American soldier’s struggle as they both fought to find their unique place in American society. As these veterans returned from the war in the 1960s and 1970s, their contributions were largely ignored by academic scholarship. This problem multiplied as psychologists and veterans’ organizations ignored the mental trouble most veterans faced that would later be labeled Post-Traumatic Stress and moral injury. In some cases, veterans turned to their faith as a coping mechanism by talking to God about their experiences or finding a community within the church that would listen to their struggles with guilt and loneliness. Some veterans found a group within the VA that helped them share their experiences with other veterans. However, this usually occurred after two to three decades of struggling as the VA neglected to recognize PTS until many years after the war. In the same way, the results of moral injury contributed to their abilities to function in society and form relationships. Unfortunately for veterans of the Vietnam War, moral injury has just recently been defined and understood as separate from PTS within the last decade.



Vietnam War, Mexican American, PTS