Monday, July 16, 2007

Go back to Iraq? Soldier would rather pay to be shot at home.

This is the saddest thing I've read in a while, and not in just one way.

"Rather than endure another tour of trauma, authorities say, Aponte hired a hit man to shoot him in the leg so he could stay home.


On his first day of combat Aponte said a female sergeant killed herself in
the middle of chow hall, an image he can't get out of his mind.

'She locked, loaded and shot herself in the head,' he recalled.


He said victory was virtually impossible when 'we don't know who the enemy
is. In Iraq, the enemy is dressed in street clothes, or they're pregnant ladies
and sometimes even 8-year-olds with machine guns.'"



Blogger Mike said...

Just interviewed a medic the other day who spent 15 months in Iraq and is desperate to not go back. His mother told me that, when he got off the plane, there was no smile and hug and later trouble -- he immediately burst into tears and went right into depression. This was a good kid who had been a stable, solid guy until he went overseas.

And he's no coward or shirker -- he started by trying simply to serve out the rest of his hitch in the rear rather than go back into Iraq itself. His mother and girlfriend and a local psychiatrist who works with a lot of vets feel he is a danger to himself and others. But the people in his immediate chain of command won't let him off the hook. His unit ships out in mid-September.

Here's part of what he told me:


It’s not the military that gets me. Granted, it’s irritating and it’s pointless and I have no pride in it. You know, I came in to serve my country ... it’s just demoralizing now. There’s no point. I’m not saying I wish I never did it. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I had this life experience, where I can say I fought for my freedom and for those around me and I can enjoy it. The problem is, I can’t enjoy it.

I’m glad that I met the people I did. I’m sorry that a few of them had to die. I’m sorry that a few of them I couldn’t save. I’m glad that I traveled halfway across the world, away from my family so I can actually value my family. I feel like I actually have a home, rather than just feeling like I’m wandering around. I value life itself more, having had a chance to see enough destruction. But I don’t need to see any more.

The people here are incompetent. They’re either government employees or in the military themselves. They’re paid by the government to say what the government wants them to say, so they’re more concerned about having X-amount of soldiers to deploy, and they’ll push medication so that you don’t show symptoms until just before you deploy, so that all of a sudden you go to crap and they can say, ‘hey, he was alright before he left, so I guess he’ll just have to suffer it out through the 12 or 15 months.’ They really don’t hear, they really don’t have any heart towards the people they take care of.

I have had other friends on this post who have seen mental health here on this post for seven or eight months, and they go to some other post on assignment or whatever reason, and they have a breakdown and go to mental health on that post and the people there are, like “Shit! Why didn’t they diagnose this?” I had a friend who was here for seven months, was seeing mental health for seven months after we got back, and he went to another post for some training and ended up having a breakdown and went to mental health there. He was there for a total of two hours, one for an assessment, one for a diagnosis. They diagnosed him with severe PSTD and anger management, and he came back with a document saying he had that, and mental health here said, “Well, I don’t know. we’re not too sure we want you to count on that because it was not by us.”

7:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Dann said...

More along the lines of what Mike had to offer, NPR ran a story about vets returning with PTSD that were hassled by their commands for seeking treatment. In actuality, it was their immediate superiors...that later admitted that they were having PTSD issues....that were doing the hassling.

There's got to be a better way to help these folks once they get home.


8:43 p.m.  
Blogger Brent McKee said...

I'm not sure that we know anything more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder now than we did when it was called "Shell Shock" (in World War I) or "Combat Fatigue" (in World War II). It sometimes seems to me that the military response is still akin to Patton slapping that soldier in the hospital in Sicily. In fact in some ways it might be worse.

2:33 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Brent, I think we do understand it a little better, but I'm getting the sense that the intense pressure the Iraq/Afghanistan mission is putting on the Army+Reserves, the inability to meet recruitment targets, both of which equal repeated rotations for soldiers and things like over-reliance on stop-loss; plus the high reliance on reservists - not career soldiers - in Iraq/Afghanistan is creating a sort of "Perfect Storm" of stress allowing PTSD to flourish on the military serving in that theatre to a degree that we haven't quite seen before.

Even in Vietnam, if you made it through your year, your ass was out of there. The stories we are hearing now of two, three repeated deployments in quick succession by reservists, for example, sounds unbearable psychologically even to a layperson who has no idea of the reality of what they're living.

All I can say is that I agree - we (both in Canada and the US) need to be doing better by these guys.

7:31 p.m.  

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