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Old 10-31-2004, 05:03 PM
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Who participated?

Who Participated in the Study?

154 male Vietnam veterans who experienced combat during their tour of duty volunteered to participate. This nationwide community sample was recruited through several organizations, primarily Vietnam Veterans of America, Point Man International Ministries, and the National Conference of Viet Nam Veteran Ministers. Their ages ranged from 49 to 69 years, with an average of 56 years. Age at the time they arrived in Vietnam ranged from 17 to 36 years, and most (70.1%) were 21 or younger.

The vast majority of participants identified themselves as Christians: 60% Protestant, 21% Catholic, and 1% Latter Day Saints. Some (14%) said they had no current religious affiliation, and 3% did not clearly specify their current religious orientation. You might notice that an unusually high number of Protestant veterans participated in this study in comparison to Catholics (based on the most complete data available on U.S. religious affiliation18). This might be related to my recruitment sources. Since all Christians share core values and beliefs that form the theoretical basis for this study, and morality in the United States is based upon Judeo-Christian beliefs, the overrepresentation of Protestants is not a concern. Future research would be useful to examine possible differences between various denominations of Christianity.

Belief in God was lower among these veterans (84%) than the national average (95%; Gallup Poll, 200119) However, the percentage of veterans in this community sample who believe in God was almost identical to that reported in a previous study of Vietnam veterans seeking inpatient treatment for PTSD20 Keep in mind that these are two small studies, and broad statements that Vietnam veterans in general are less likely to believe in God than non-veterans cannot be made. Interestingly, even though belief in God was similar in the two veteran groups, this community sample attended church worship services more often than the inpatient veterans. We don’t know if the inpatient group had more severe PTSD symptoms than this community sample, although it is quite likely. Other interesting comparisons can be made between the current study of veterans in the community and the inpatient PTSD veterans:

Veterans in the community sample were more likely to be religious during childhood and at the present time than the PTSD inpatients.

Community veterans were more likely to believe that their experiences in Vietnam strengthened their faith, although about one-fourth of inpatients also reported that their faith increased.

Inpatient veterans had more difficulty reconciling their religious beliefs with their Vietnam experiences, although more than half the community veterans also struggled with this issue.

Inpatient veterans were more likely to have abandoned their religious faith in Vietnam (51% vs. 37%) than the community sample.

Which Components of Spirituality Did I Include in My Study?

Specific elements of spirituality that I considered to be important were:
Spiritual alienation,
religious practices (such as worship, prayer, meditation, reading scripture,) having a collaborative relationship with God,
life purpose,
and overall spirituality.
I also included guilt, forgiveness, and combat severity.

The latter will be discussed in subsequent articles.

Very Brief Summary of Results

When reading these results it is important to keep in mind that this is a small study. Therefore, we cannot say that the information presented here applies to Vietnam combat veterans in general.

Components of Spirituality

Information was gathered from participants on many different aspects of spirituality, and the most relevant were used in statistical analyses reported in the section below. However, some other interesting relationships were found:

•Frequency of prayer and frequency of meditation were not strongly related, meaning some of these veterans who pray also meditate, but not a high number.

•Having a collaborative relationship with God (e.g., seeking God’s help through stressful life situations,

•trying to find a lesson from God in crises, thinking about one’s life as part of a larger spiritual force, and

•confessing one’s sins and asking for God’s forgiveness) was associated with more frequent religious practices (e.g., prayer, church worship, meditation, and reading scriptures).

•With this sample of veterans, those who had a collaborative relationship with God were also more likely to participate more often in religious practices. However, only worship was included in the analyses, as explained below.

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