For Vets, the Fatal End of Stress


A couple of articles in the past few weeks remind of the dangers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

First, an excellent piece published on Feb. 13 in the St. Petersburg Times, on Sgt. Curtis Greene, a 25-year old Iraq war veteran who suffered from PTSD. His complaints were common ones, including the feeling that his wife no longer understood him. “Curtis was raised to respect life,” says his stepfather. “In the military you’re taught to take it. I think he struggled with that.” Greene, according to the article, was terrified he would be redeployed. “Over my dead body are they going to make me go back.” Greene committed suicide in early December, leaving behind two kids.

An article published today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer offers a different spin on the stresses of the Iraq war, and tells the story of Reverend Alan McLean, a former marine who lost his legs in Vietnam. “The war in Iraq,” writes reporter Mike Lewis, “unbearably amplified his nightmares.” McLean shot himself on February 11.

A third article offers another depressing tale, and makes some charges that deserve to be followed up. Salon’s article last week on Ward 54, the inpatient psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center begins with the January 12 suicide of Spc. Alexis Soto-Ramirez, who had returned from Iraq complaining of back pain. The article’s author, Mark Benjamin, charges that Walter Reed favors group therapy, rather than one-on-one care; that medical students and residents administer these therapy sessions, rather than more experienced doctors or veterans. He also says that the Army is overreliant on medication, and most seriously, that the military is given to denying the stress of war is a reason for mental trauma, to avoid disability claims.

Benjamin takes on a lot in the article, and it will be interesting to see the result.