When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home by Paula J. Caplan

Paula J. Caplan, a much-published clinical and research psychologist, has taken a special interest in emotional issues facing veterans returning home from war since the start of the war in Iraq. Her latest book, When Johnny and Jane Came Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans (MIT Press, 282 pp., $27.95), stemmed from her realization about  “common vets’ problems and dilemmas,” she says. Some of the problems, Caplan writes, “have been created by well-meaning people who do not stop to consider what helps and what hurts vets—and that there is good reason to believe the suffering can be alleviated.”

Caplan, an Associate at Harvard University’s DuBois Institute and a Fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, goes on to make her case that there are other ways aside from psychotherapy and drugs to help veterans suffering emotionally from war-time trauma.

“We sent many Vietnam and Gulf War vets behind psychotherapists’ doors to deal with their anguish, and we’ve come to think it’s the best thing to do,” she writes. “Unfortunately, in our over-psychologized society, we’ve also come to think that it’s the only thing to do.

“We’ve failed to learn what the vets of previous wars have taught us—that although therapists clearly help some soldiers, there is only so much emotional damage from war they can fix.”
Instead, Caplan believes that the military should work on emotional problems “on the battlefront” and as soon as troops get home. She also believes that all Americans should “shoulder a bit of the burden of helping our soldiers and our returning civilians with their reentry into ordinary life back in the United States.”

Caplan’s website is http://whenjohnnyandjanecomemarching.weebly.com

—Marc Leepson