Veterans to share combat experience at lecture in Arnhem

Dutch soldiers
Dutch soldiers. Photo: Countrymaster / Wikimedia Commons

The Netherlands' Veteran Institute's annual veterans lecture will take place in Arnhem today. This year's theme is combat experience, with recognition and public appreciation being important topics. According to the institute, combat experience is clearly an important topic for veterans as the maximum number of 300 veterans registered to be part of the lecture, Omroep Gelderland reports.

The lecture will be held in Bronbeek in Arnhem, where the nursing home for former soldiers is located. Several soldiers will talk about their combat experiences in Afghanistan. But the lecture will also include speakers with a completely different perspective on military missions abroad, such as a metal care giver and a politician.

The Veteran Institute also published the results of a study on veterans with combat experience on Monday. The study found that veterans who fired their weapons or were shot at during deployment, are less positive about their deployment than colleagues who did not end up in a combat situation, Trouw reports. They also suffer more often from nightmares and psychological problems. According to the study, 38 percent of veterans with combat experience face consequences of their deployment - they get irritated more easily, can't face New Year's fireworks, or struggle with psychological problems. Among veterans with no combat experience, 16 percent face such problems. 

But on the other hand, veterans with combat experience feel more proud of themselves and their unit, and more often think fondly of that time. "It may sound strange", researcher Melanie Dirksen of the Veteran Institute said to the newspaper. "But it stays a very special experience, no matter how ugly it was. It changes people. They grow, we often hear, even though it keeps them awake at night."

Another interesting point revealed in the study, is that veterans with combat experience feel less appreciated by the media and society. Why exactly that is, Dirksen could not say. "If you were under so much stress, put your life on the line, then a negative report may hit you extra hard", is one possibility, according to her. The study also showed that veterans with combat experience are more focused on the news than those without - they more often follow news reports about the region they were deployed in, or the mission they were on. 

The study involved 554 veterans who served in Lebanon, Cambodia,  Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Of them, 204 had combat experience. Whether that distribution reflects the total group, Dirksen could not say. She also stressed that this is the first such research, and that it was no more than an exploratory study. The Veteran Institute will do further studies into what effect shooting at someone or being shot at has on veterans. 

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