How did military service affect the lives of those who served in World War 2?

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It took millions of men who had never been far from home at all and sent them thousands of miles away to places they had never seen.  It aged them, quickly and brutally, by exposing them to carnage, destruction and death on an scale difficult to imagine.

It made them appreciate life, and led many of them to try and live it to the fullest when they returned home.

But it was difficult for some to live with the things they had seen and experienced, much less explain them to loved ones in a way that they could understand.  So many veterans of that war, my grandfather included, just buried it, and never spoke of the conflict until much, much later in their lives, if at all.

PTSD was undiagnosed at the time, and society did not adjust well to those unable to mentally deal with civilian life in a post-catastrophe world.

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Speaking for my late father, who served with the IV Infantry Division and landed shortly after D-Day in Normandy, it was an experience that defined his life. As a recent high school graduate from rural Mississippi, he had never been out of the state before enlisting in the army. After basic training in Fort Hood, Texas, he headed overseas and was based in England for several months before the invasion. He saw the carnage and destruction wrought by both the Germans and the Allies, and he contributed to the horrors of the war himself. He received a severe back wound during the Battle of the Bulge (which affected him for the rest of his life) and recovered in time to join the IV Division as the first American unit to cross the Rhine River. World War II gave him a chance to see the horrors of war and the various European people it affected. When he returned 25 years later for a military reunion, he got a second chance to see how the lands had changed--in part because of his own participation in fulfilling his patriotic duty. 

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