The Horrors of PTSD

Amidst all the hubaloo surrounding the Super Bowl this weekend (of which I was a part of), a tragic and very serious incident of murderous violence between military veterans occurred in Texas. One of the victims was Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history. The perpetrator, Eddie Ray Routh, was a man the same age as me that was apparently suffering from what is now commonly referred to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kyle and the other victim, Chad Littlefield, had befriended Routh and tried to help him cope with life after war. We are told that Littlefield was even a “workout buddy” with Routh.

For some strange reason, it was decided that the three men would go to a shooting range this weekend, upon which Kyle and Littlefield were both murdered. I don’t understand why Routh would do such a thing to his friends. It is absolutely senseless, but most likely aggravated by the experiences of combat, somehow.

There are many questions worth asking. Firstly, why is it that the media reports these stories when a high profile veteran like Chris Kyle is the victim, yet almost completely silent when other such incidents happen? Would this story be receiving the attention it has if Chris Kyle was not the deadliest sniper-one who killed more than 150 people in four tours to Iraq-but someone who served a term similar to Routh’s, one that goes almost completely unnoticed and unacknowledged? Why is PTSD not taken more seriously in this country?

I am also having an internal conflict about the legacy of Chris Kyle. He served my nation and made a sacrifice that many people of my generation have not and will not endure. Yet reading about his experience in Iraq made me feel much like the people who reacted to Mathew Brady’s photographic exhibit on the dead of Antietam during the Civil War. One reporter at the time stated that “If [Brady] has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it.”

We learn that Kyle kills “about” 40 people at the Second Battle of Fallujah and at one point does some of the killing while lying over an overturned baby crib. In one instance Kyle kills two people with a single bullet. Regarding this chilling incident, all he has to say in his book American Sniper is that “The taxpayer got good bang for his buck on that one.” Such stories make me question what exactly this nation did in order to not only have people thousands of miles away “hate us,” but how a man could kill 150 fellow human beings and have no regrets or second thoughts about it, especially considering the fact that we were duped about Iraq and its alleged complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

Moving on from Kyle, we must begin to acknowledge that PTSD is a serious problem in this country. A crisis, in fact. A recent report has stated that 325 veterans committed suicide in 2012, a record number, even higher than the number of soldiers killed in combat that year. That’s almost one veteran a day that committed suicide last year. William T. Sherman once remarked that “War is Hell.” War is indeed hell, but it is also death: physically, emotionally, mentally. Even when we discover that there is problem with a veteran, as was the case with Routh, we are still unsure as to how to work with that veteran to help him or her get better. I don’t think guns do much to help in such situations, personally. For the sake of all of our veterans, I hope we continue the work of figuring out the complex ramifications and consequences of PTSD on a person’s mental state. Equally important, I hope we figure out a way to stop resolving our problems with other countries through endless violence and war.