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.


August 07, 2009

Name: Chaplain CPT Dr. Father Tim 
Posting date: 8/7/09
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog: Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain

I was chatting online with yet another GWOT veteran whom I've never met last night. We've been corresponding for about 18 months, I'd guess. This guy is a Staff Sergeant (SSG/E-6) in the Army National Guard who served overseas shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

He's got 15 years in uniform, and went to the V.A. to get help with PTSD and mTBI (post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury) a while ago. The V.A. did what they were supposed to do, and helped this guy to see that he was having a normal reaction to an incredibly abnormal circumstance, and his issues resolved over time.

Not too long ago, during the Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) each Soldier has to complete each year, he mentioned that he'd been to the V.A. to get help.

His National Guard unit is now sending him to a medical review board in order to kick him out of the Army. He'd just gotten the paperwork from the Army on Saturday morning.

"The guys in my unit look at me as though I have the plague," he mentioned.


I am so angry I cannot see straight.

A friend of mine who's a psychiatrist at a large military medical installation here in the States where they see lots of personnel experiencing post-deployment difficulties told me that the Active Duty Army is doing a pretty good job of working to de-stigmatize a diagnosis of PTSD. "But the National Guard in many States is just way behind the power curve here, and they still effectively punish Soldiers for getting the help they deserve and need, and which can restore them to full functionality in their military mission."

Not so long ago a Lieutenant General in the Army (three stars) went public with the fact of his struggle against PTSD, an act which ought to be lauded by all concerned. But this NCO, upon being honest with his superiors about his own experience, is going to be medically discharged from the Army because his State's National Guard Bureau is living in some other century, and operating out of complete blindness and stupidity.

Instead of censuring this guy, we should be applauding him and honoring his desire to accomplish the Army's mission by ensuring that he's fully mission capable.

By this action, his State's National Guard Bureau is sending the message that it's better to pretend that nothing is wrong until such time as the Soldier either commits homicide or suicide or both.

This Soldier has fifteen good years of service, wants to continue to retirement, has had his problems resolved as the result of taking the courageous action he took to acknowledge the truth of his situation, and the National Guard is going to kick him out because of it.

Disgusting dereliction.


I agree. This is an outrage. That the National Guard penalized this soldier for doing the right thing and seeking treatment sends a terrible message to all the others who could and should get help.

The incident in Boise, (see SHADOWS OF THE WAR) is a dramatic illustration of what PTSD can lead to. I would hope that all members of our armed forces can get treatment without having to jump through hoops or hide the fact that they sought help.

FURIOUS!!!! I'd like to write to the Congressman/Senators of that state if we could find out.

This is an outrage. As a psychology student and social worker who wants to work with vets, I cannot comprehend how the National Guard can view PTSD as a plague, especially when it is a normal response to an out of the ordinary situation. Their response is going to cause more people not to seek help because they are going to think there is something with them, when they are perfectly normal.

That is an outrage! I am not sure why this would happen to a soldier who is attempting the right thing. What is the alternative? Avoid getting help and then lose all mental sanity?

By singling out this man how willing are other soldiers going to be to go to psychological treatment?

I'm really pissed about what that state's NG wants to do, afainst both the individual and the service's needs. I'm irritated, though, at the chaplain's posting. Is everybody going to watch and do nothing as this wrong is perpetrated? Hiding the locale allows these cretins to get away with their inhumane, bad-for-the-service acts. WHERE IS THIS OCCURRING?

I am still haunted by the memory of an aquaintance of mine freshly returned from Iraq with the National Guard back in the early days...

he was beside himself because of his homicidal urges whenever *any* level of conflict occured--sometimes even as simple as someone bumping him at a bar.

He desperately sought help--fully aware that he risked being discharged--because he was so afraid he would hurt someone, and he KNEW his urges were completely irrational and disproportionate.

When he finally talked to someone about help, he was turned away because, while he was *homicidal*, he was not *suicidal*... and they only had funds/time to handle suicide risks.

I have no idea where he is today.

Oh-so-many years in, I realize the Army, Marines and the military in general has grown more understanding of both the psychological issues faced by servicemen and -women (and concomitantly the care necessary to keep a soldier whole).... but that we are STILL so far from where we should--and could--be is just as you said: an outrage.

-- Navy Wife/democrat/fierce defender of our armed forces.

I wish that I could get my friends to read this. I know two guys, that I'm very close to, who are going to basic soon and then will be shipped overseas. I have seen yet another friend of mine return from Iraq and he has PTSD. Reading actually makes everything worse to know that two guys I care about are making a decision to start something that may ruin their lives. If they aren't killed, they may suffer the rest of their lives.
However, I thank you very much for working with God to try and help/protect these men.

This is exactly why there are so many soldiers that go off on killing sprees. PTSD I'm sure has caused many off these incidents. As an army wife who's husband is deployed I think this treatment is outrageous.

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