Saturday, September 24, 2005

Casualties of War: Tracking US PTSD Violence

Editor's Note: This commentary originally appeared in a number of online communities, including Daily Kos. It was my first attempt to bring together some of my research into OEF/OIF returning vet press-reported stateside incidents. The ePluribus Media PTSD Timeline would be created in December 2005 to factcheck and house these reports (and unfortunately the others that have continued to occur). If you have an incident to add to our catalogue, please email me. -- Ilona Meagher

I grieve for this generation.

I'm almost 40, and so, grew up in that idyllic time of relative peace and ease in the states. My generation was too young to have to fight in Vietnam, too old (generally) to fight in this war. Although we may have slipped through unscathed, the younger generation now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are not. And this affects us all. They are part of our nation's fabric; they are our neighbors; they are our brothers and sisters; they are our co-workers.

When they return, they return to us all.

They were sent to protect us, and they did so unquestioningly. Unfortunately, many are returning to us with a myriad emotional problems, which an overburdened and underfunded VA is hardly able to effectively support. Alarmingly, in cities far and wide, an increasing number of happy homecomings are ending in violence at the hands of our broken soldiers.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Many of our returning combat veterans require not only physical therapy, but psychological care and counseling as well. [A disturbing reminder of this is found in Mikey's diary, War Porn - Humanity Breakdowns in the US Army, which was the genesis for this diary.] Matt in AA posted a woefully overlooked diary, Failing Our Veterans - and the American Community, dealing with the disturbing fact that a large portion of our returning soldiers are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Already in late 2004, PBS had begun reporting on the affects of the PTSD on soldiers serving in Iraq. 72,000 cases have been diagnosed to date; additionally, it's been reported that nearly 90 veterans have committed suicide while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or after returning home.

Incidents of violence at the hands of returning soldiers towards family members and strangers alike are also increasing stateside; however, statistics on military-involved stateside homicides or suicides are not tracked (surprise) by the Pentagon nor the massively under funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

What follows is a partial list of reports on stateside violence related to PTSD. The aim here is to shine a sliver of light on yet another burden placed on our society by the inept and destructive policies of the Bush Administration.

* September 19, 2005 - 2 charges of theft, burglary, and assault
Attempting to steal hogs from an Iowa farm, two recently returned (and soon to be redeployed) Iraqi veterans -- one 21, the other 23 years old -- based out of Fort Riley, SD and part of Company-B of the 101st Forward Support Battalion of the First Brigade, First Infantry Division severly beat two 52 year old farmers who'd caught them in the act. After beating them, the soldiers tied them to a fence; the victims were being treated for injuries that included a broken arm, skull fractures, cuts, broken facial bones and bruised eyes. [AP: Soldiers Arrested in Farmer Beating]

* September 16, 2005 - 1 kidnapping, robbery, and rape
A 25 year old Army Sergeant (unclear if a combat veteran from this report) based at Fort Campbell, TN kidnapped his former girlfriend at gunpoint, forced her to drive to an ATM to withdraw money, and then returned to her home to rape her. After being placed under house arrest at the base, he stole a vehicle and left the post. He was later arrested. [WTVF: Fort Campbell Soldier Arrested; Charged with Kidnapping, Robbery and Rape]

* September 7, 2005 - 2 murders
A 22 year old Fort Lewis, WA soldier was arrested and held on $2 million bond in connection with the shooting deaths of a fellow soldier and a woman shot multiple times as they sat in their car outside a tavern. Police suspected the crime was a botched burglary attempt. The military refused to give any information regarding the soldier, so it's unknown if he'd served overseas or not. [The Seattle Times: Soldier Arrested, Bail Set in Fatal Double Shooting]

* August 12, 2005 - 2 injuries
A soldier named `Marine of the Year' for his Iraq service was arrested after firing upon a 15 year old girl and 20 year old man leaving a Massachusetts night club. The soldier's wife told police that her husband had been drinking and they'd been arguing shortly before the shooting. The couple have two children. The soldier was being held on $100,000 bail. [The Boston Globe: Police: Decorated Marine Opened Fire on Noisy Crowd]

* August 7, 2005 - 1 suicide
A 23 year old Iraq combat vet, only 11 days earlier decorated with the Army's Combat Action Badge, shot himself in Tacoma, WA. [Seattle Weekly: Home Front Casualties]

* August 3, 2005 - 1 murder, 1 suicide
A 35 year old Fort Carson, CO 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldier who 9 days earlier had arrived stateside after being sent into combat in Iraq for a year from a South Korea base, shot his wife five times in the head and neck with a pistol before killing himself with a shotgun blast to the head. The couple were the parents of a toddler; neighbors said the soldier had signed up with the Army in Jan. 2004 for access to health benefits because his wife was expecting a baby. [Colorado Springs Gazette: Carson Soldier Kills Wife, Himself]

* August 2, 2005 - 1 murder, 1 injury
A 20 year old Iraqi veteran (who'd served in the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, TX and sought treatment for PTSD after his return), was arrested for the shooting death of a man and woman in a Las Vegas alley. The returning soldier was on a 1 am beer run to a 7-Eleven, wearing a black coat with an assault rifle tucked under his arm. The couple had apparently yelled at him to get out of an alley. After firing on them, the young soldier fled the scene and returned to his apartment for more ammunition. [Las Vegas Review-Journal: Iraq Veteran Arrested in Killing]

* July 29, 2005 - 1 possible suicide (death from natural causes?)
A Fort Riley, KS soldier was found dead in his quarters; no foul play is expected. The soldier was assigned to the 82nd Medical Company of the 541st Maintenance Battalion, and had served two stints in Iraq. [FOX 4 News: Investigation Begins into Death at Fort Riley]

* July 28, 2005 - 1 murder, 1 suicide
A 20 year old Marine based out of Camp Lejeune, NC and mysteriously, but honorably, discharged in February (and as of yet not a confirmed combat veteran - the military blaming a `disjointed database and filing system' for the delay in confirmation), killed his newly-enlisted 18-year old girlfriend with a shot to the back and then turned the shotgun on himself in Washington State. [Bellingham Herald: Rech's Military Background is Explored]

* July 12, 2005 - 1 murder
A 19-year old Iraqi infantryman based out of Fort Lewis, WA who'd seen action in Mosul and had suffered head injuries after being thrown from a vehicle by a bomb explosion in March for which he received a Purple Heart, stabbed his 18 year old wife to death on base. He had been receiving counseling for behavioral problems. [Seattle Times: Soldier Charged in Wife's Death]

* December 14, 2004 - 1 aggravated assault, conspiracy, and a weapons violation
A 24 year old Fort Bragg, NC supply specialist who had spent seven months in Iraq, was distraught about having to return to combat duty and wanted to stay with his family. With the help of his wife and a civilian (the wife's cousing), he drove to a wooded area in northwest Philadelphia, where the civilian shot the soldier once in the back of the leg with the wife's .22-caliber pistol. The combat veteran had seen some of his friends KIA in Iraq and was worried about returning. [NEPA News: Man Gets 15-30 Months in Prison for Staged Shooting of Soldier]

* October 14, 2004 - 1 murder
A 22 year old Fort Riley, KS soldier was arrested for the murder of a Chicago store manager in an armed robbery. The Army Specialist was attached to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, 2/3 of which had recently returned to Fort Riley from their second tour of duty in Iraq (where 4 others had been court-martialed for the deaths of Iraqi civilians). [Kansas State Collegian: Soldier Arrested in Murder Case]

* October 8, 2004 - 1 domestic assault, 1 suicide
A 37-year-old Fort Eustis, VA soldier (returned only the month earlier) from Iraq hanged himself in jail over the weekend. Police say he hanged himself with a bedsheet early Saturday in the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail in James City, about 12 hours after being arrested on a charge of assaulting his wife at their York County home. In the four weeks since his return, deputies responded to about six complaints against McKeehan by his wife and a neighbor. [ABC 7 News: Soldier Just Back From Iraq Hangs Himself In Jail]

* September 13, 2004 - 2 murders
Two 23 year old infantry battalion sergeants were arrested for the shooting, premeditated murder, deaths of two fellow soldiers over fears they would be turned in to civilian or military investigators for a Kansas farm drug operation. All soldiers were attached to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, 2/3 of which had recently returned to Fort Riley from their second tour of duty in Iraq (where 4 others had been court-martialed for the deaths of Iraqi civilians). [Kansas State Collegian: Soldier Arrested in Murder Case]

* August 18, 2004 - 1 suicide
A 48 year old New Hampshire National Guardsman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a mere day after returning home from Iraq. [Veterans for Common Sense: Death Rocks Counselors Who Work With Soldiers Returning from War]

* June 22, 2004 - 1 suicide
A 23 year old Marine Reserve who fought in the battle of Nasiriyah hung himself a year after returning home from military duty. In late May 2004, his parents had involuntarily committed him to a military veteran's hospital after he ignored pleas to seek help. The hospital discharged him after a few days. Three weeks later, he was dead -- the dog tags of two Iraqi prisoners he said he was forced to shoot unarmed, lay on his bed. [Democracy Now!: Parents Mourn Son's Suicide After Returning From Iraq Duty: "He's a Casualty of War But He'll Never Be Known As That"]

* June 2, 2004 - 1 murder
An army reservist based out of Portland, OR, after having just returned from Iraq a few months prior, was arrested for first degree murder and held on $250,000 bond. His wife's body was found in a van near their apartment - a fatal bullet shot through her throat. The couple's daughter was in the custody of Child Protective Services. [USA Today: Soldier Arrested After Police Find Wife's Body in Van]

* May 27, 2004 - 1 suicide
A 33 year old staff sergeant (based out of Fort Jackson, SC), state trooper, and Gulf War I vet returned from a year's deployment in Iraq afraid of seeking psychological help because of what it might mean for his career. His wife, nonetheless persuaded him to call an Army program that helps soldiers find treatment; but, he lied on the phone, answering 'no' when asked if he thought of harming himself. Just a few hours later, with his stepdaughter playing outside, the National Guardsman shot himself in the heart only 5 weeks after returning home as his wife rushed to try to knock the gun out of his hand. [North County Times: Stretched Thin -- Concern Mounts Over Soldiers' Mental Health Care]

* April, 2004 - 1 count felony child abuse
A soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, NC, was charged with felony child abuse in the severe beating of his 2-year-old daughter. Authorities said alcohol did not appear to be a factor, the Fayetteville Observer reported. He had been in Iraq for a month earlier this year. It was not clear why his tour was so short. [UPI: Wave of Mental Problems Follows GIs Home]

* April 21, 2004 - 1 murder
A 31 year old Army sergeant based at Fort Lewis, WA, who'd returned just weeks earlier from Iraq, drowned his wife in the bathtub of an apartment they'd begun sharing. On April 10th, the woman had gone to authorities and told them her husband had pushed her and threatened to kill her; two days later she'd obtained a temporary restraining order. Apparently, they'd been fighting due to an affair he'd had with a fellow soldier in Iraq. The couple had a 10 year old son. [KOMO News: Fort Lewis Soldier Arrested for Allegedly Killing His Wife]

* April 24, 2004 - 1 charge aggravated assault
A 23 year old Iraqi combat veteran based out of Camp Lejeune, NC who'd served in al-Nasiriyah and Tikrit attached as a specialist to the 4th Marine Infantry Division, was arrested for firing a shot at a Philadelphia University District `Ambassador' - one of 35 unarmed officers who pedal around school neighborhoods assisting students and watching out for disturbances. The incident occurred on a Friday night, and drinking may have been involved. [Philadelphia A Bitter Homecoming]

* April 13, 2004 - 1 charge armed robbery
A 38 year old Fort Campbell, KY soldier who told police officers he "just couldn't take it anymore" and wanted to be locked up walked into a southeast Iowa bank, fired a large caliber handgun into the air, and demanded cash. He had only recently returned from Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division (the division had lost 58 Fort Campbell soldiers in Iraq in 2003). After he left the bank, he climbed into his pickup truck and drove to the police department, where he turned himself in. [WKRN: Ft. Campbell Soldier Robs Iowa Bank]

* March 21, 2004 - 1 suicide
A 36 year old warrant officer based out of Fort Carlson, CO. Returning to his base following 10 months of combat duty in Iraq and 3 weeks after coming home, this Special Forces Green Beret beat his wife and threatened her with his .357-caliber revolver; put the gun to his head when police answered a domestic abuse call; and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. [The Denver Post: GI's Suicide Shows Failure By Us All]

* March 18, 2004 - 1 murder
A 39 year old former wounded Iraqi supply sergeant in the Army reserve shot his wife and buried her body in a footlocker after she'd told him she was leaving him for another man. The couple had a 7 year old daughter. [Seattle Weekly: Home Front Casualties]

* March 9, 2004 - 1 suicide
A 6-times decorated executive officer of the Army Reserve's 909th Forward Surgical Team having returned from combat duty in Afghanistan shot and killed himself. He was upset that he couldn't afford to pay for an attorney to fight for the City of Columbus, OH promised promotion and raise offered him in September 2002 before he left to serve. When he returned, the higher-level job had been filled and he was forced to resume his old job, which pays $4,000 less per year. [AP: Reservist Commits Suicide After Return]

* December 6, 2003 - 1 suicide
A 25 year old Army combat veteran who'd been seeing a psychiatrist was found hanging in his barracks. His wife said that he'd returned a changed man -- there were two times where she felt in danger in her own home. Twice the police had to be called to the couple's home; once, he was taken away in handcuffs. [St Louis Today: For Some Returning Vets, War May Not Be Over Yet]

* July 17, 2003 - 1 murder
A 22 year old Fort Lewis, WA soldier enlisted the help of a fellow soldier (though not Gulf War combat veterans) to strangle to death his wife to collect a life insurance payoff and run away with his girlfriend. The couple had a five-week old son. [Seattle Weekly: Home Front Casualties]

* July 19, 2002 - 1 murder, 1 suicide
A 30 year old former Afghanistan US Army Special Operations Commend veteran shot and killed his wife, and then himself. [CNN: Fort Bragg Killings Raise Alarm about Stress]

* June 29, 2002 - 1 murder
The wife of a 36 year old Fort Bragg, NC master sergeant was strangled to death one month after her husband returned from combat duty in Afghanistan. [CNN: Fort Bragg Killings Raise Alarm about Stress]

* June 11, 2002 - 1 murder, 1 suicide
A 32 year old Special Forces sergeant stationed out of Fort Bragg, NC and just returned from duty in Afghanistan in mid-March, fatally shot his wife, and then killed himself. [CNN: Fort Bragg Killings Raise Alarm about Stress]

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