“For every person who looks down on you, I noticed there is someone looking up to you because you got help.” http://t.co/3QKHyHJm9p
— Thomas James Brennan (@thomasjbrennan) November 6, 2013
Take a moment, if you have one, to read this wrenching, deeply moving and enraging testimony from one Marine veteran with a Purple Heart who returned home and became immobilized by post-traumatic stress. You can read about his heroism – “Oh, so you want to use us as bait? Thanks a lot!” – from an embedded photographer here. Here is his suicide note:
“To the woman I love with my whole heart and soul: You are finally free of the terror I have caused in your life. I am sorry for everything I have done to you. I deserve every bit of sorrow I feel. Never forget how much I love you and cherish the times we spent together. I’ll hopefully see you on the other side.”
He swallowed a bottle of pills, and then somehow reached back to life and vomited them back up. What makes this story more than distressing is that part of what compounded his PTSD was the mockery and contempt of other service-members toward his condition. It was viewed as weakness not illness, even for a Purple Heart recipient:
I wondered if asking for help for my post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury was the smartest decision – after all, it had ended my career.
The way my leaders had treated me tore me up on the inside, and their words haunted me. They had convinced me that I was not a Marine in pain, but someone looking for free benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. At work, at home, in bed, all I could think about was how my career in the corps had ended in such a terrible, tasteless fashion, with my peers and leaders turning their backs on me because I had enrolled in treatment.
When he checked himself in to a mental health facility – the VA turned him down because he had two days left before he retired! – he was treated horribly. I don’t know about you, but this kind of story rips my heart out. It must not happen to anyone. The military has to make much more of an effort to destigmatize those psychologically traumatized by a war so intense for so many it has understandably altered them for ever. There is hope. But not if there is stigma.