By Jeremy Herb - 09/06/12 03:54 PM EDT
"They should have been in the best shape of their lives," said Milberg. "The big worry, of course, is we're going to be taking care of them until they're in their 70s. What's going to happen to them in the long run?"
While the scientists’ theories on early aging might not be proven for several years, the findings could have implications for the way that U.S. troops are deployed in future conflicts, both in length of time and the number of deployments.
PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases have both been on the rise for Veterans Affairs as the number of troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq has increased.
Milberg said that the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also could play a role in the aging process, where troops were constantly managing stress for many months at a time before heading home and then repeating the cycle again with new deployments.