The young recruit from the provinces looked depressed, out of place, fearful. His commanding officer noticed, and thought of sending him to the infirmary.
However, in that part of the world military doctors did not enjoy a great reputation outside wounds and broken bones. And, as many clinical doctors, military or not, they often would not consider a mental condition a real sickness.
Stories about the psychological acumen of Argentine military doctors were many. Institutional memory had it that once a high-ranking officer confessed to his doctor that day after day he felt hopeless, and, above all, frightened. He stated that he was no coward and could envision going into a battlefield situation and feel no fear. However, he felt overwhelmed by the recurrence of that kind of fear that a psychologist could have identified as anxiety or even panic. This man was oscillating between anxiety and depression, but he could not identify his condition. The doctor could not, or did not want to, name it either. His “treatment” was: “Look, if you don’t get over this soon, it will have to go into your record. And, you know, this kind of thing looks bad at the end of the year when promotions are being considered.”
The recruit’s commanding officer pondered the risk of being laughed at if he sent the soldier to the infirmary for something other than a physical condition. However, he did and had a military doctor examine him. The doctor pronounced that the soldier was suffering from “drafting syndrome,” meaning that he was confused and scared as his daily routines had being upended and he found himself in unfamiliar surroundings, but that he would adapt to the new situation in a couple of days. The officer, reluctantly, took him back to the barracks.
This was on a Tuesday. On Thursday he was declared unfit to serve and sent home. The night before, Wednesday, the young recruit burned the barracks down.