Rhetorical Analysis: Mental Illness among War Veterans.

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Rhetorical Analysis: Mental Illness among War Veterans.

High rates of mental illness were diagnosed among United States soldiers after returning from the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004 (Vogt et al. 341) The mental illness is attributed to the horrific experiences during the war. For instance, soldiers witnessed other soldiers shot, being amputated, or dying. The soldiers live with the horrific experiences the rest of their lives, which affects their well-being. The book, “Thank you for your service,” by David Finkel, explores the traumatic experiences of soldiers during the war and the struggle of the soldiers who live with mental illness.  Finkel effectively uses ethos, pathos, logos and diction to illustrate the effect of war on the mental health of soldiers.

Finkel uses ethos to show the credibility of the fact that the traumatic experiences in war cause mental illness among soldiers. Finkel studies the lives of veterans and uses their experiences both in war and after war to show how mental illness affects them. For instance, the author describes Adam Schumann, a veteran soldier who was deployed in Iraq for a significant part of the book. Finkel writes, “When he left the war as the great Sergeant Schumann, he was verging on gaunt. Twenty-five pounds later, he is once again solid, at least physically. Mentally, though, it is still the day he headed home. Emory, shot in the head, is still draped across his back, and the blood flowing out of Emory’s head is still rivering into his mouth. (Finkel 2). This statement illustrates Schumann’s experiences before and after the war in Iraq. Before going to Iraq, he was on the verge of being skinny, but added on some weight after the returning from Iraq.  Finkel compares the physical condition before going to war and after the war. The author implies that although he is physically healthy, his mental health is questionable. Schumann recounts the experiences, for example, his fellow soldiers that were shot dead.  The use of ethos helps in establishing the credibility of the information. By using evidence from Schumann, who is a war veteran, Finkel convinces the reader that indeed, the experiences that the solders go through during the war cause mental illness.

Finkel uses pathos, which is the appeal to emotions, to illustrate the idea that war experiences cause mental illness in soldiers. Finkel recounts the day when Schumann was leaving Iraq for home. He writes, “They came into his room, and he shut the door and told them he was leaving the following day. He said the hard part: that it was a mental health evacuation. He said to them, “I don’t even know what I’m going through. I know that I don’t feel right.” (23). When Schumann was leaving Iraq for home, fellow soldiers went to his to his room to know if he was well. He told them outrightly that it was a mental health evacuation. Schumann himself does not no know what he is going through or how he feels. This shows that he is going through traumatic events that need psychological help. The use of pathos help in invoking sad and sympathetic emotions within the reader. The reader feels for the soldier, because he is sacrificing his life for the country.  Furthermore, Finkel explores the experiences of other veterans, but does not mention their names. He quotes another one who experience, “Constant nightmares, anger issues, and anytime I go into a public place I have to know what everyone is doing all the time.” (56). The experience of soldiers after war invokes empathy and sympathy within the reader. The appeal to the reader’s emotions helps Schumann to make the reader feel what it is like to live after war.

Finkel uses logos, which is the appeal to reason, to illustrate how war experiences cause mental illness in soldiers. For instance, Finkel interviewed one of the soldiers who said, “I don’t think anyone came back from that deployment without some kind of demons they needed to work out,” (59). This is the appeal to reason because the soldier uses thinks that the war experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan caused some mental trauma in soldiers. He thinks that it is impossible for one to come out without something to work out. If the soldier is right, then this is enough reason for the development of mental illness in soldiers after the war. Furthermore, Finkel quotes another veteran who, after two years of sweat and panic attacks, says, “I’m sure I need help.” (61). The fact that the war veteran has been going through panic attacks for two years, it appeals to reason that war experiences cause mental illness among soldiers. The appeal to reason helps in persuading the reader about the effect of war on the soldiers’ mental health.

Finkel uses diction to make the reader understand his point, that war experiences affect the mental health of soldiers. For instance, in the prologue, Finkel states, “You could see it in his nervous eyes. You could see it in his shaking hands. You could see it in the three prescription bottles in his room: one to steady his galloping heart rate, one to reduce his anxiety, one to minimize his nightmares. You could see it in the screensaver on his laptop—a nuclear fireball and the words FUCK IRAQ.” Here, Finkel repeats the words, “you could see it…” four times to show that he actually saw the effects, and anyone could also see it. The use diction, which is the choice of words, helps in making the reader understand better the author’s idea (Varpio 209). In this case, the use of the words, “You could see it…” creates a mental picture within the reader’s mind about the suffering of Adam Schumann. Also, the word, “FUCK IRAQ,” are written in capital letters to emphasize the soldier’s feelings.  The words are capitalized on Schumann’s laptop’s screensaver. The use of capitalization means that the soldier is shouting, which is an evidence of a traumatic experience.  Furthermore, the author uses the words, “depression, anxiety, memory problems, and personality changes”, severally in the book to show the traumatic effects of war on soldiers.

Finkel effectively uses the three rhetorical appeals and diction to persuade readers to understand the effect of war on the mental health of soldiers. Finkel uses ethos by appealing to the credibility of the information, for instance, the soldiers and research studies. He uses pathos by describing how the soldiers suffer mentally after the war. The use of logos appeals to reason by illustrating the connection between war and traumatic experiences.  Finally, Finkel chooses the words such as “FUCK IRAQ”, “depression”, and “you could see it…” to effectively show the effects of war on soldiers.  

Works Cited

Finkel, David. Thank You for Your Service. , 2013. Internet resource.

Varpio, Lara. “Using Rhetorical Appeals to Credibility, Logic, and Emotions to Increase Your Persuasiveness.” Perspectives on Medical Education, vol. 7, no. 3, June 2018, pp. 207–210. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s40037-018-0420-2.

Vogt, Dawne, et al. “Consequences of PTSD for the Work and Family Quality of Life of Female and Male U.S. Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans.” Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 52, no. 3, Mar. 2017, pp. 341–352. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1321-5.

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