Tag Archives: PTSD

” ‘Did you kill anybody?’ The answer we were told to write was no”

coffee_strong_logoI’ll write more this weekend about the situation at Fort Lewis, which should concern us all and has already got the attention of Amnesty International. But looking at GI Voice, the newsletter of the Fort Lewis GI coffeehouse Coffee Strong, I was gobsmacked by the following cri de coeur from a young Marine.

The writer, Allen Huck, knows exactly what’s going on. His note speaks to everything we’ve come to understand about soldiers, and these wars. I reprinted in full in case someone who reads this can help. (Feel free to contact Allen directly via Coffee Strong.)

It was “Marine Corps Policy”, I guess. Before leaving Kuwait, we were handed out forms to fill out. Awful things…Did you see a dead body? Did you kill anyone? Did you participate in any sort of war crimes? Ridiculous questions. Especially, since we were never really informed of what exactly war crimes were. Maybe I did. Those thoughts continue to haunt my daily life, and my dreams.

On our return to Kuwait, we were given strict instructions on how we were to fill out these forms.

“Did you see a dead body?” – The guided answer was no.
”Did you kill anyone?” – The answer was also no.
”Do you feel you need immediate help and/or counseling?” – Absolutely not.

The questions went on. And of course, the answers were almost always “no.”

Perhaps this is the reason that PTSD is so rampant as a result of this conflict. Had we been given the help we so sorely needed, perhaps the homeless rates, drug use, domestic violence, and completely shattered lives would not be so rampant. Maybe not, but it sure couldn’t have done additional harm.

When I returned from Iraq, I was forced to fill out one of these questionnaires. I told the truth, and as a result, it disappeared. When I returned home, I went to my commend, and asked for mental health counseling. But in the Marine Corps, requests for mental health were simply not asked for. And so it was denied. As a result of that, I was separated from the Marine Corps indefinitely. I was ostracized by nearly everyone in my unit as “crazy”, which was the most horrible stigma one could be given. I was immediately kicked off base, my ID card was confiscated, along with my base vehicle stickers.

Essentially, I was banned from the Marines for requesting help.

Later on, I received phone calls stating that I was UA (the Marine Corps’ AWOL), and MP’s came to my house to take me into custody. Just about three or four months ago, I received a call that said I was reactivated, and was on the roster to be re-deployed.

My unit was 4th LSB H&S Co. Located at Ft. Lewis.
Their Address is: Fort Lewis
H&S Co(-)4th LSB
Bldg 9690, Box 339500
Fort Lewis, WA 98433
Their Phone is: 253-967-2477

Any help would be greatly appreciated, as they have now refused to take my phone calls, and will not return my letters. My name is: Allen Huck.

To anyone who is willing to help in calling, writing, or anything of the sort, I would appreciate it. This is happening to other good soldiers, and we cannot allow this behavior to continue.

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“Let’s hope I don’t have to call you from under a freeway bridge”

From one of the veterans’ lists I’m on, a cri de couer from Placido Salazar, retired USAF who served in Vietnam:

This Wednesday morning, I heard that DOD/VA were holding Suicide Prevention “hearings” at the most luxurious hotel (Grand Hyatt) in downtown San Antonio. I was able to get there for the afternoon session. I read through the agenda – and heard some briefings, with all the talk focused on seeking help or helping your buddy if he feels suicidal.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA top-doc for mental health was the last speaker. When he finished, he was trying to rush out the door without taking questions. I yelled out, “Just a minute, I have a question, specifically for Dr Katz.” There were several hundred GIs from Ft Sam present in the auditorium, from PFC to Generals. You could hear a pin drop. I then took the mic and started real soft and mellow… “You know, Dr. Katz, three days ago, I woke up with a high fever, hard cough and severe pain below my rib cage. I went to see my doctor who did the routine and then ordered Xrays, informing me that I have pneumonia and placed me on antibiotics.”

Katz asked, “What is your point?” I replied, “The point is that, in order to treat my cough, the doctor first checked to determine what the root of the illness was. Once he determined the presence of pneumonia, he put me on antibiotics, to treat the cause and the symptoms. I have checked the agenda for these ‘hearings’ and I find FOUR very important words missing entirely.

Dr. Katz, why don’t you tell these young soldiers who just returned from Iraq THE TRUTH . Why don’t you tell them that THE REASON behind their suicidal tendencies, after risking their lives in combat, is a VA-recognized illness called ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ – known as PTSD, and not “a READJUSTMENT PROBLEM”…. Tell them that PTSD is treatable, but not curable…. And that if they returned with serious PTSD problems from Iraq or Afghanistan, that they should fight for DISABILITY RETIREMENT, instead of allowing the military to kick them out the Base Gate, perhaps to possibly commit suicide or to live on the streets. Tell them that if their PTSD (or mental problem) was ‘pre-existing’, they would not have made it past the recruiter.” I added, “Approximately two years ago, I was allowed to speak at the Congressional PTSD Committee in DC and Representative Bob Filner (House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair) chastised you on this same subject, but apparently NOTHING has changed…. VA is still trying to evade the truth.”

At that point, Dr. Katz dismissed the audience and came and sat face to face with me and asked, “What do you suggest?” Again, I insisted, why not try THE TRUTH. He suggested that, “More advocates as yourself need to come to DC to light a fire under us.” I reminded him that when he comes to San Antonio, the government pays for him to fly first-class, to stay at the most luxurious hotel, with a generous per diem to pay for his meals. When other Veterans and I travel to Washington, to fight for all our Veterans’ medical care and other needs, which should not be necessary, we have to travel AT OUR OWN EXPENSE – and stay in visitors’ quarters at a military base, five to a room, if we are lucky to find vacancy. I departed by saying, “Besides, why should we have to travel to DC to get a Government employees to do your job, when you guys get paid a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year?”

Are repercussions possible? Let’s hope I don’t have to call you from under a freeway bridge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vets’ suicide rates from 1812 on — not being able to decide if it’s some sort of tipping point or if, like desertion, it’s important but kind of perpedicular to dissent. Salazar’s letter is all of the above, I think.

The tipping point is coming. I don’t know if it’ll be like the Ron Kovic era above,  but I can feel the pressure mounting.

“we’ll see,” all right

wyler I think I hadn’t understood till now how completely radical it was to tell this story in 1946. Put it together with that Superman radio show, and you’d think telling truth to power was actually in vogue.

No wonder Willy Wyler, who saw his cameraman shot up over Europe, ended up having to fight Joe McCarthy too.