Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Post-deployment stress: The battle that veterans face after they return home

Military veterans may encounter post-deployment challenges affecting their psychological and physical health.
Michael Cook
At the Orlando Veterans’ Memorial Park, a Vietnam War statue stands as a tribute to the service of U.S. military veterans.

Andrew Pinatel, a U.S. Army veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, faced psychological and physical health challenges when reintegrating into civilian life in Florida.

Pinatel is among many veterans who experience post-deployment stress after active military duty, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other challenges affecting their lives.

“I had anxiety, I was also overindulging in food and drinks – gaining a lot of weight – and I had trouble sleeping,” Pinatel said, who was a lead gun truck commander from Sept. 2006 to 2008. “I had trouble being in public areas with lots of people and certain noises would trigger me into a hyperactive state.”

Joy Sessa, a postdoctoral fellow at Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-P.A.W.W), explained that post-deployment stress can stem from traumatic events that alter the brain, leading to increased stress and alertness. She also clarified that this stress can arise from training and other military activities, not just combat.

In partnership with the Humane Society of Broward County and a Marine veteran who is a dog trainer, C-P.A.W.W. matches veterans with a dog tailored to their specific needs. They research the effects of human-animal interactions by analyzing stress levels through blood and saliva samples. 

Sessa shared studies conducted by C-P.A.W.W. of a veteran who served in the Afghanistan War and experienced casualties during his service. Following his deployment, several soldiers from his battle group committed suicide, causing him to experience severe depression and anxiety. 

C-P.A.W.W. paired the veteran with a service dog to help manage potential triggers, improve his relationships and re-engage in social interactions.

According to Sessa’s C-P.A.W.W. studies, a Vietnam War veteran performing a training exercise became confined in a tunnel with simulated explosions for about two hours. After a medical discharge from the military, he experienced undiagnosed post-deployment stress symptoms for many years. 

Sessa stated that failing to address health problems with veterans can result in them having issues with substance abuse, unemployment and homelessness.

Donovan Diaz, FAU’s chief compliance and ethics officer, was an Air Force captain during the Iraq War from Sept. 2006 to March 2007. After his service in civil affairs planning, he underwent screenings in Texas – before returning to Florida – to check for any physical damage. 

Diaz discovered in the medical assessment that he was sensitive to loud noises, specifically those that resemble the rocket attacks he had experienced while deployed in Iraq.

“And then you go through mental screenings to see if there’s any additional counseling for the trauma you may have incurred,” Diaz said. “So they can start to identify earlier and potentially put you on a treatment plan.” 

Sessa acknowledged that while cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication treatments can be beneficial – they may sometimes fall short. Pinatel concurs with this and states that limited resources are available to veterans deconditioning from active duty.

“The government and the military are good at preparing you for war; they’re not very good at transitioning and deprogramming you back to civilian life,” Pinatel said. “The transition was difficult dealing with civilians that didn’t have any military background. People don’t understand a lot of the nuances that go into soldiering.”

According to Sessa, there is a decrease in recruiting rates for the military due to concerns about post-deployment stress and depletion from service.

“We’re dealing with it after it has already happened,” Sessa said. “What could be done to prevent this in the first place in terms of mental health?” 

Michael Cook is a Staff Writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Michael Cook, News Editor
Michael is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in public relations. He's passionate about film and photography, and his journey into journalism began when he served as an editor for his high school yearbook. Now, he aspires to become a television news producer.

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