What We Can Learn About Mental Fortitude from Vietnam Vets

With Veteran's Month fresh in our minds, we reflect on the sacrifices of our brave Armed Forces and show them the respect they are due.

They stood up for our country and displayed unrelenting fearlessness in the face of adversity, and we think everyone can learn a thing or two about resilience from these unshakeable military badasses.

In light of this solemn month, we felt it appropriate to consider some important lessons about mental fortitude that Vietnam Vets have showcased, that we can all use as inspiration. 

Here's 3 lessons from Veterans you can apply to your own life struggles:

3. Groups are Stronger Than Individuals

Many Vietnam veterans found solace and support in groups, both while they were in the field and long after they returned home. It’s been known among military leadership that groups and squads are much tougher and stronger than individuals alone.

This also extends to mental fortitude. It's a lot easier to stick something out and overcome a terrible challenge if you have a buddy in the proverbial foxhole with you.

Lots of the courageous and death-defying acts that Vietnam veterans performed wouldn't have been possible without the support of their fellow service members. 

The Bottom Line: Learn to team up with others and share your mental burdens. We’re all stronger together.

2. Mental Fortitude Doesn’t Mean Invincibility

Let’s be frank: Vietnam led to horrific incidents of PTSD across our armed forces. This is a natural consequence of war, and it’s one of the reasons why war should always be a last resort. We do honor and respect the challenges and struggles that our armed forces went through in Vietnam (and continue to go through in the Middle East).

But those soldiers, especially back in the day, didn’t initially recognize that having nightmares or being triggered by the sound of a gunshot was normal. 

Instead, those men (for the military was indeed entirely men back then) believed themselves to be mentally weak because they felt the aftereffects of the horrors they had witnessed during the war. 

Over time, of course, we know what happened – VA offices opened up, therapy became less stigmatized, and Vietnam veterans around the country realized that having mental fortitude doesn’t mean you can’t be damaged.

If you’re feeling bogged down by stress and fear, remember the hard-won lessons that Vietnam veterans learned. You can still have mental fortitude even if you feel a struggle or pain. You’re still strong.

The Bottom Line: It’s a lot like bravery – a man who can’t feel fear can’t really be brave. Similarly, you can’t have mental fortitude if you are invincible.

1. PTSD Isn’t Shameful

Lastly, let’s double back on one of the big lessons of the Vietnam War that the men who returned scarred from their experiences learned. PTSD is not shameful whatsoever. It’s a natural consequence of war, and men have experienced it since time immemorial.

If you believe that you’re suffering from PTSD, it’s important to seek out help. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to a strange therapist, reach out to your friends and family. 

Remember what we said earlier – we’re stronger together.

The Bottom Line: Support groups exist for a reason, and having PTSD is no more shameful than earning a physical wound in the heat of battle.

Ultimately, the Vietnam veterans taught us many lessons about mental fortitude, particularly when it comes to the aftershocks of war and violence.

Taking these lessons to heart will help us treat our modern-day veterans better than we took care of Vietnam vets back in the day, plus help us tackle daily challenges in the civilian world.

Thanks for reading, 

Justin | Author

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