The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a toll-free hotline to help veterans and their survivors cope with any bad reactions to the extremely graphic World War II film, "Saving Private Ryan." The number is 1-800-827-1000.
"Counselors at VA medical facilities have been asked to prepare to assist veterans who experience emotional trauma as a result of the movie," said a spokesman for the VA in Washington, D.C. "VA similarly assisted veterans following the movie `Platoon,' which had profound impact on veterans exposed to combat."Ted Baxter, spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, said as of Wednesday, the hospital had received only one call about bad reactions to the movie. He had just spoken with the chief of the center's mental health unit, "and it's been quiet."
No flashbacks have surfaced among Utah servicemen and women who belong to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, said Arlene Fenton, who works for the VFW in Salt Lake City. But it may be only a matter of time.
Fenton said she is expecting such a reaction though. "It'll take a couple of months for it to surface.
"Anytime there is a movie out of that nature, you're going to get the flashbacks and the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from our veterans," she said. "Most veterans that have PTSD that is quite bad will not even go to the movie."
The disorder can affect veterans of any military action. When the United States fought in the Persian Gulf War seven years ago, she added, the news coverage caused reactions among veterans who had been through the horrors of combat.
" `Private Ryan' will trigger a lot of problems if the veteran himself goes to see it," she added.
"The ones that go to see it may think they're OK and then . . . may wind up with some big problems." If they fought in combat or under other stressful conditions, Fenton warned, "they're going to have flashbacks."