January 25, 2012
By KEITH UPCHURCH
DURHAM – Diane Corcoran didn’t know what a Vietnam War soldier was
trying to tell her in 1969 about his near-death experience on the battlefield.
The term was unknown then, but Corcoran could see that what he had gone
through was life-changing.
“I recognized that it was profound, extremely emotional for him,” she said.
“And he was so worried that I wouldn’t believe him. But I said: ‘No, no. I
Since that day more than 40 years ago, Corcoran has made it her mission to
learn more about those who report near-death experiences, especially war
Corcoran is president of the Durham-based International Association for
Near-Death Studies (IANDS), which aims to educate people about the
phenomenon and support those who have gone through it.
She’s a retired Army colonel and nurse, serving from the Vietnam War
through Desert Storm, and holds a doctorate in management.
Gradually, Corcoran came to believe that many soldiers were having near-
death experiences as bombs exploded and gunfire nearly took their lives. But
many were uncomfortable sharing what happened, and felt they had no one
to talk to.
But Corcoran knew they needed an outlet – someone to share their life-
transforming experience with, who wouldn’t be dismissive or think they were
crazy. That person was her.
She began by urging fellow medical professionals in the battlefield to take
soldiers’ accounts seriously and to try to understand more about the near-
“I drove them crazy,” she said. “I was probably 15 years ahead of the curve.
They weren’t sure if I was crazy or what was the matter with me. But I was
really convinced how important it was for health care professionals to know.”
Corcoran spent years teaching about near-death experiences at major
nursing conferences “and was sort of the go-to person in the military
services,” she said.
“Now, 40 years later, I still feel it’s important for all health-care providers to
know about the near-death experience.”
Veterans in particular, she said, often feel frustrated and alone, because
medical professionals often don’t listen to their near-death accounts and take
“There are so many near-death experiencers out there who don’t know we
exist, and think they’re crazy, and feel very isolated,” Corcoran said. “We
want to get the word out to people and help them know about our
Corcoran believes that the number of veterans with near-death stories will
mount now that the war in Iraq has ended.
“It’s been very clear to me since the Iraq War started that we’re seeing a lot
more head injuries, more amputees, and that there’s going to be a lot more
of these people who’ve had near-death experiences,” she said. “They have a
unique problem, because they’ve got physical trauma, psychological trauma,
and then they’ve got their experience which is exceptional.”
If they try to tell a VA hospital doctor about it, she said, the doctor often
lumps it in with a post-traumatic syndrome disorder diagnosis “and just
“If they could own their own experience and had somebody who really
knew about it and understood it and give them information, these young men
and women could do a lot to heal themselves,” she said. “But instead, they’
re just further compromised.”
Corcoran wants the military to address the issue, and has developed a
training program to help them do so.
In Durham, she said, two groups meet monthly about their near-death
experiences, but another group for veterans is needed.
“They are so frightened of losing their military benefits that they’re very
hesitant to talk to anybody who really isn’t part of the military – certainly not
the health-care professionals. They’re not going to tell them. So they’re kind
of trapped in this situation, and it severely affects their spouses and family.”
Corcoran also works with a group called Purple Heart Homes that includes
two war veterans – one who had head trauma and the other a double
amputee. They’re raising money to help veterans with housing issues by
building homes and remodeling others.
One of those veterans turned out to be a near-death experiencer, she said.
“He had classic after-effects,” Corcoran said. “But he was blown up and
doesn’t remember having an experience.”
She said that’s often the case – many soldiers wounded by a bomb who don’
t remember it, but are profoundly changed inside.
“So they’ve got all this strange stuff going on, and they don’t know what it’s
about,” she said.
“When they return from war, they’re not the same. Their values often
change, and without someone to help them explain it, they’re at a high risk
for divorce and are very different people. And we have nobody addressing
this for these poor veterans.”
Corcoran said these vets don’t need therapy. “They just need someone to
listen and give them good information. Many are more emotional than they
used to be and wonder what’s happening to them. They might cry at
touching events where they wouldn’t have before. They just need to know
that they’re perfectly fine, and that this is one of the after-effects that can
eventually be integrated.”
Corcoran said she knows of one veteran who tried to discuss his near-death
experience, but was medicated and sent to a psychiatric ward. “We’ve seen
this reaction too often,” she said.
What she’d like to see are more support groups in VA hospitals for near-
death experiencers, so they can share what they’ve been through and feel
safe talking about it.
“With so many people injured in war, these numbers are huge,” she said.
“People think that only one or two people have these near-death
experiences, but we know there are many.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
For information about IANDS, visit www.iands.org or (919) 383-7940.
Date, 2007/International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc. (IANDS)
/ – Veterans returning from IRAQ who have had combat near-death
experiences (NDEs) need support beyond combat anxiety, depression, or
post-traumatic stress disorder. Colonel Diane Corcoran, USA (Ret) RN,
PhD is launching the Combat NDE Project to educate military and veteran
health care providers and veterans about NDEs.
The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count reports over 32,000 U.S. non-mortal
casualties, and 30% of these service members are likely to have had NDEs,
according to near-death studies. Neither the military or Veterans
Administration has a program. “Although NDEs are typically life-changing,
service members don’t necessarily have a mental health issue,” said
“In the Army Nurse Corps, Vietnam, patients would describe near-death
experiences. Subsequent to Raymond Moody’s book Life after Life, the
importance of having an education and support system for the military and
the civilian sector became clear,” reports Corcoran.
Corcoran began teaching health care providers in both military and university
hospitals during the 1970s. Corcoran lectures at military hospitals and
nursing conferences, writes articles for nursing journals, and advises NDErs.
In retirement, Corcoran chairs both the education and research committees
of IANDS to advance the understanding of NDEs. Now, backed by
IANDS, Corcoran is generating the financial resources with the Colonel
Diane Corcoran Veterans Fund to create an NDE educational package and
deliver the program to military and VA rehabilitation centers.
The Combat NDE Project’s training will include a video, handbooks,
presentation and articles for continuing education departments of selected
military and veteran hospitals, supported by Corcoran’s expertise and
presentation. Corcoran will connect veterans to IANDS local support
groups and help hospitals start their own groups.
Founded in 1981, the International Association for Near-Death Studies
(IANDS) is the only international organization dedicated to encouraging
scientific research and education on the physical, psychological, social, and
spiritual nature and ramifications of near-death experiences. IANDS
disseminates research on NDEs and similar experiences to a broad
audience, including scientist, medical professionals, religious thinkers, and the
general public. IANDS’ mission is to build global understanding of near-
death and near-death-like experiences through research, education, and
support. IANDS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information
about the Colonel Corcoran Veterans Fund and IANDS, visit http://www.
iands.org and http://www.corcoranconsulting.biz.
Contact: Colonel Corcoran, Veterans Fund Public Relations, IANDS, 919-
5 June 2007 International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS)
The Colonel Corcoran Veterans Fund will generate financial resources to develop
a comprehensive package to educate military and veteran healthcare providers
and veterans about near-death experiences (NDEs).
Thousands of IRAQ veterans are returning home and some have had a near-
death experience but the military or VA doesn’t currently have a program to
treat these veterans. Colonel Corcoran, USA (Ret) RN PhD is setting out to
provide large military and VA rehab health care centers with a complete training
program to support veterans who report having had an NDE.
In the mid 70’s Corcoran began teaching health care providers both in the
military and university hospitals about near-death experiences. “While in the
Army Nurse Corps I had patients in Vietnam describing NDE experiences,
however, we did not have a name for it at that time.. Over the years, and
subsequent to Raymond Moody’s book Life after Life, the importance of having
an education and support system available to patients in the military and the
civilian sector became very clear to me.” Corcoran has spent 33 years lecturing
at military hospitals, major nursing conferences, writing articles for nursing
journals, and advising near-death experiencers. In retirement, Corcoran chairs
both the education and research committees of IANDS to advance the
understanding of NDEs.
The Military training program will include a video, handbooks and articles
supported by Corcoran’s NDE lecture. Materials will be available for the
continuing education departments of military and veteran hospitals. Corcoran also
plans to study the challenges facing NDE veterans via focus groups and connect
veterans to IANDS local support groups, or assist the hospitals in having their
As of (month), there have been over 32,000 US Non Mortal Casualties,
according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, including non-hostile events and
disease. Among these veterans are many service members who have had NDE’s,
as many as 30% of those injuried, according to most literature.. These men and
women do not have a mental health issue because of the nde and will require
different support from those who suffer from combat anxiety, depression or
post-traumatic stress disorder. Corcoran’s training program will fill the gap.
For more information about the Colonel Corcoran Veterans Fund and IANDS,
visit http://www.iands.org and http://www.corcoranconsulting.biz
Founded in 1981, the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS)
is the only international organization dedicated to encouraging scientific research
and education on the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual nature and
ramifications of near-death experiences. IANDS disseminates research on NDEs
and similar experiences to a broad audience, including scientist, medical
professionals, religious thinkers, and the general public. IANDS’ mission is to
build global understanding of near-death and near-death-like experiences through
research, education, and support. IANDS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Media Contact: Colonel Corcoran Veterans Fund Public Relations, IANDS, 919-