It’s well established that soldiers returning from the battlefield often suffer the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health problems.
This week the Colorado Springs Independent reports that soldiers returning to Fort Carson Army Base from Iraq and Afghanistan are not only not receiving medical attention for their trauma, but actually are being ridiculed and in some cases forced out of the military. Here is how the experience of Pvt. Tyler Jennings, a 23 year old infantryman, is described in the story, reported by Michael de Yoanna, at the Colorado Springs Independent.
Less than a year ago, Jennings was a hero, a Purple Heart recipient who’d re-enlisted for six years. But stationed on a remote highway outpost near Ramadi, he faced a daily onslaught of insurgents’ roadside explosions. He saw a sergeant he knew “folded in three like an accordion” behind the wheel of a Humvee, alongside a soldier literally split in half and decapitated. He watched in horror as Pfc. Samuel Lee, a 19-year-old from Anaheim, Calif., committed suicide, shooting himself in front of his platoon.
Once back at Fort Carson, Jennings says he suffered panic attacks, jitters, sleeplessness and flashbacks. He turned to drugs, alcohol and sleeping pills to ease his afflictions. When urine analysis tests came back positive, the Army began to process his discharge for “patterns of misconduct.”
The Independent isn’t the only news outlet to pick up on the story. In conjunction with the Colorado Springs weekly, CBS News, which also interviewed Fort Carson soldiers who say they are not receiving help for PTSD, aired a segment July 12 citing a recent Veterans Administration report that “more than 50,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to be suffering from mental health problems” – and many are not getting the help they need.
In the face of what some are calling an epidemic of PTSD in the military, nearly a dozen soldiers at Fort Carson told CBS News that their cries for mental health either went unanswered or they found themselves subject to unrelenting abuse and ridicule.
Kaye Baron is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Colorado Springs, Colo. Each week, she counsels up to 25 soldiers and their families who are either unwilling or unable to face their problems while on base.