|Loren Meador working as a medic in Iraq.
PULLMAN, Wash.Loren Meador spent a year in Iraq as a U.S. Army medic. He survived two truck explosions and dealt with constant life-or-death situations. Within days of returning home to Bellevue in 2009, he resumed classes at Washington State University.
Things didn’t go well. The noise on Greek Row made him jump. He couldn’t sleep. He was angry, edgy.
But he hung in there and, a year later, had an obvious subject for a research paper: “Aggression Levels in Combat Veterans.” He interviewed 41 men, 20 of whom were deployed in the Middle East. He wanted to know how they reacted when a clerk rang up the wrong price. He wanted to know if they fought with wives and co-workers.
“I found that combat veterans have aggression levels that are 25 percent higher than non-deployed soldiers,” he said. “That’s a huge difference.”
Meador is a junior majoring in kinesiologythe study of how human muscles and other bodily systems work, develop and interact. He is also a sergeant and squad leader in the Army National Guard.
The soldiers he interviewed are members of his Kent-based unit, the 1st-303rd Cavalry 81st Brigade Combat Team. He asked them to rank, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree,” the answers to 12 questions. Among them:
Once in a while, I cannot control the urge to strike someone
I often find myself disagreeing with other people
At times, I feel like I have gotten a raw deal out of life
When people are especially nice, I wonder what they want.
Meador is an especially nice guynormally easy-going and intent on being helpful. He’s 23 and his career goal is to become a physician’s assistant, following in the footsteps of his father, Capt. Anthony Meador.
‘Problems we haven’t figured out’
Loren, left, Shelley and Anthony Meador in front
of Loren’s research poster at the WSU Academic
The senior Meador has served in the military for 33 years, first in the Army and now in the National Guard. He came to WSU Pullman in March, fresh from his third tour of duty in Iraq, to attend the Academic Showcase, where Loren presented his research poster.
Its subject matter is something Anthony Meador knows all too well, having dealt with his own post-deployment anxieties and those of another son, Christian, who also served in Iraq.
“The military is getting better at recognizing it. They’re providing services,” Anthony Meador said. “But there are problems we haven’t figured out how to deal with.”
Anthony Meador also thinks soldiers don’t bounce back as quickly as soldiers did in the past. Today, soldiers at war are in regular phone and online contact with families, and they have to make rapid-fire mental changes to get back into combat mode, he said. When he served in Korea in the 1970s, he said, it could take a month to get a letter from home.
Another difference, he said: Modern troops grew up playing video war games and often have trouble dealing with the real thing.
When Shelley Meador thinks of the stress her son and husband have gone through, she compares it to the trauma she felt after being first on the scene of a fatal car crash.
“I couldn’t get that out of my head for days and weeks,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is what they go through maybe several times a week.’”
Loren Meador put in one semester at WSU before his tour of duty in Iraq. Before he left, his mother said, “Things didn’t bother him, he took everything in stride. When he came back, he had a lot of confusion.”
Goal: A program to help
Meador continues to deal with anxiety“large groups still freak me out”but he’s over the worst of it. He has learned to work out his aggression in the weight room and on the basketball court.
“I go to the gym a lot,” he said. “Exercise has always been one of my priorities, but I didn’t realize how much it helped until I started doing something physically active every day.”
One of his new priorities is to find funding to continue his research. He would like a study group numbering in the thousands, to help pinpoint what triggers post-combat aggression and what helps subdue it. Ultimately, he wants to use his findings to design an educational program that will help veterans.
His adviser, Professor Lawrence Bruya, said Meador has good ideas and might well be successful at finding a research sponsor.
“The work he’s doing has the potential to make a large contribution to society,” Bruya said. “He already has demonstrated his desire to help others. What better way to keep doing that than by finding ways to help veterans readjust to life after combat?”