The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


July 25, 2008

Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 7/25/08
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog url:

“No, No, NO!" The words were wrung from my mouth as I read the caption on the front page of Sunday’s editorial section. “NO!” I sadly shook my head and collapsed onto the chair.

It was an article was about Joseph Dwyer. An Army medic doing his job helping a wounded Iraqi child, he had caught the attention of an embedded journalist, whose photo of a mundane but heroic moment was flashed around the world and shown in innumerable places. It was the beginning of OIF in 2003, and for Joseph Dwyer it was also the start of his own personal war with PTSD. He ended that battle recently when he died of a substance abuse overdose. He was 31 years old.

Framed_hart_dwyer2 I do not know Joseph Dwyer, nor have I ever met him. However I have taken care of hundreds if not thousands like him. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors, all battling PTSD.

In one of the comments left under my previous post, which also dealt with PTSD, someone stated, “Your posts shine an intense light onto a growing monster lurking in the basement of this war.”  It’s so tragically, horrifically true. Almost every single patient I care for has some form of PTSD. And these are the lucky ones. Since they are hospitalized and mostly bed-bound when I start my impromptu “PTSD education brief”, I have a captive audience.  But there are thousands coming back from this war without resources, without education and without the knowledge and skills to defend themselves against the monster known as PTSD. A monster it is, and it grows bigger and more deadly with each passing day.

The way to defeat it is to understand it. To realize it’s okay that you have it. You were placed in situations where you saw things and experienced things you would not have if you were not in the arena of war.

The way to defeat it is with education. Education about what it is, what the signs and symptoms are and where to go for treatment, because make no mistake; PTSD is a disease. It is a lifelong disease that goes in and out of remission. It can be extremely well controlled with the right treatment, but is devastatingly deadly if not.

When people learn I work with the wounded, they all want to know what they can do and how they can help. It is time to also think about the ones who come back home physically intact, but are nonetheless wounded and disabled from the battlefield. It is time to realize there are thousands now back on American soil who are still fighting OIF/OEF in their minds, and we need to help them. How many more Joseph Dwyer’s will we allow to die before we do something about it?

If PTSD were a contagious disease would we let it ravage our countrymen without a public outcry?  How long would we let it kill thousands of men and women before the media began warning and educating people about its signs and symptoms, and spreading the word about where to go for treatment? If PTSD were a contagious disease how long would we wait before pouring money into research and treatment?

How long will we be content to let the monster known as PTSD take our American Heroes?

Here are some helpful links:

Department of Veterans Affairs: National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder A Readjustment Resource for Military and Civilian Combat Zone Veterans

Reserve Component Resource Center

And I recommend these books by Bridget Cantrell and Chuck Dean:

Down Range; To Iraq and Back


Once A Warrior; Wired for Life 


Great post with good points, Clara. Very helpful links. Thanks again for all you do for the soldiers; and for educating us.

This photo is very interesting, this type of post, serve to raise awareness and to realize that the world we live

It is time to also think about the ones who come back home physically intact, but are nonetheless wounded and disabled from the battlefield.

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