Last week in this space I wrote about yet another Iraq vet suicide - in the extreme. This poor fellow, named Travis Twiggs, ended up shooting himself to death in Arizona, after killing his brother, probably by pre-arrangement.
After four tours in Iraq, he had a severe case of PTSD, which is not so unusual. What made the case even more notable was the fact he had written about his PTSD and treatment for the Marine Corps Gazette back in January (Tom Ricks at The Washington Post even linked to it) and, as a member of a group of damaged vets had recently met President Bush.
But what did he actually write in that now famous (but largely unread) article?
Let me start at the end of his piece, to capture the tragic nature of all this: "I pray that no Marine or sailor, or any service member for that matter, ever has to go through what I went through," he concluded. "If you have any of these symptoms and you can't get help, you can always contact me, regardless of your rank. That is what it is all about right? My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will help anyone in need."
Well, not anymore.
The piece it too lengthy to excerpt, so follow the link if you care. One early graf:
That third trip did not go as planned. I lost two Marines less than 2 months after arriving in theater. I cannot describe what a leader feels when he does not bring everyone home. To make matters even worse, I arrived at the welcome home site only to find that those two Marines' families were waiting to greet me as well. I remember thinking, "Why are they here?" From then on my life began to spiral downward. Not only did I have orders to transfer to Quantico and would have to deal with the stress of moving my family, but I was also experiencing the loss of the two Marines, having to communicate with their families, and saying goodbye to my platoon while dealing with my PTSD, which was back with a vengeance.
He goes on to detail his treatment, the effect on his family, tips for others, and the thought that he was getting better -- but things like passing helicopters would still set him off. A few weeks later he, and his brother, were dead.
Greg Mitchell's new book has several chapters on vet suicide. It is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Fails on Iraq.