Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The war after the war

There has been a lot of great reporting on PTSD over the years. Veterans coming forward, sharing their stories, pieces of their lives to help other veterans falling apart. There has been great reporters taking the time to listen and get it all down so that the stories can be shared with the world.

This is one of them. It was reported back in 2006 and the Boston Globe still has the links working. If you want to know how change the outcome, learn what contributed to all the suffering in the first place. Then help them heal!

The war after the war

Boston Globe
By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff
October 29, 2006

The squad mates paused for a snapshot before their patrol on the night of the roadside bomb attack in Baghdad. From left to right: Jeremy Regnier, Dustin Jolly, and Andy Wilson.

They were an Army of Three — fun-loving, young, courageous, afraid. And when the bomb went off outside Baghdad, killing New Hampshire's Jeremy Regnier, the survivors of the squad found their lives upended. What they suffer has a name — post-traumatic stress — but a label can't describe it. This is a story of a death and its descendants.

It was circled on his calendar, a day he'd looked forward to for months. But as Andy Wilson stood on the wind-swept airfield and the chartered plane glided out of a leaden Texas sky, he was anything but upbeat.

An unsettling cocktail of emotions swirled inside. The balloons and marching bands, the confetti and welcome-home banners were not for him, though they could have been. Should have been.

As a noncommissioned officer, Wilson had sworn to stick by the men he led in combat, no matter what. And to bring them all home.

But after that night in Baghdad when the bomb went off and his friend and comrade slumped against his shoulder, Wilson's war was over.

He left Iraq on leave in late 2004, his mind and spirit broken, and never returned. Doctor's orders. "It gnaws at me," he said.

Three months later, as the troops he served with stepped off the plane at Fort Hood after a year at war, the emotional torque of it all bore down on him again.

The grapevine had carried the whispers from the war zone: Wilson's lost it. Wilson's a coward. And when some of the returning officers refused his outstretched hand or grabbed it limply with looks of disappointment or disdain, he knew who the whisperers were.

But for now, it didn't matter.

As the troops lined up to return their weapons, their gas masks and the other gadgetry of warfare, Wilson searched the crowd for a single face.

Dustin Jolly was the only other soldier who really knew what happened that night in October 2004 when Jeremy Regnier, the cocksure gunner from Littleton, N.H., died.

Like Wilson, Jolly had felt the blast and seen the unspeakable injury -- and knew how easily that memory reel could unspool.

But unlike Wilson, who sought help and went home, he had bottled up his demons and gone back out on patrol.

And so as Jolly -- near the front of the line -- stepped into view, the reunion sequence was anything but certain. Wilson held his breath.

"I saw him," Wilson said, "and once he gave me that dumb-ass Jolly look, I knew he was OK."

The men hugged and smiled and shook hands. They made promises to drink beer and catch up.

"It made me feel good," Wilson said. "It made me feel proud. It made me still feel loved, I guess."

In the months to come, what the two men shared, the darkness and the love, would come to mean everything.

The war after the war had begun.
read more here

It is a condition with an off-putting, antiseptic name -- post-traumatic stress disorder. It is as old as warfare and as new as yesterday's casualty list. Yet, remarkably little is known of why it afflicts some and exempts others, why its symptoms can be so insidious and so adamant. 
Wilson only knew what he felt -- possessed, immobilized, ashamed. He had left Iraq early, and he believed his superiors now considered him damaged goods. The soldier who ran when others stayed. The commander who swapped places with Regnier minutes before the bomb tore him apart.

"I take nothing away from anybody who has lost limbs -- nothing at all because they deserve more than just a Purple Heart," Wilson would later explain. "Maybe they should come up with something for us crazy guys. I don't know. But we have wounds that we're going to carry with us for the rest of our lives. I sit alone in my house sometimes and I cry like a big baby because of what happened."
read more from Nothing's Wrong With You 

 PART ONE: The war after the war
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: "Welcome to Hell"
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: "I should have died."
Pop-up AUDIO SLIDESHOW: Isolation, withdrawl, and hope
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: "A penny for your thoughts"
Pop-up AUDIO SLIDESHOW: In uniform, a sense of family
Photo Gallery PHOTO GALLERY: "The consolation prize"

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