PTSD claims a very dear friend – I share my sadness

Word this morning that my very dear friend, neighbor and co-worker for over 20 years has ended his life. He has been treated for extreme PTSD, from his Viet Nam experience as a Marine, for over 3 decades and diagnosed as “seriously mentally disabled”. The VA, veteran support groups and all who cared for him worked hard to keep him stable. A highly decorated Marine, his Viet Nam experiences as a “tunnel rat” during the worst years of the war gave him indescribable nightmares about the lives he had to take and his buddies who died in his arms. We worked together until he had to leave his job, due to his PTSD mood swings. Living next door, I saw a different neighbor over the fence every day. I am still very close to his wife, children and grandchildren. He would never talk about his experiences, no matter how hard I tried. I kept open to the hope he would lift the lid on his anguish and share. I donated a lot of blood to Viet Nam. I always hoped that blood brought someone home alive. I never imagined that some who returned would bring the psychological time-bomb home that would ultimately kill them.

I am angry that his wife may be denied VA Death Benefits because he took his life while going through old Viet Nam photographs and listening to Iraq war news. The Vietnam War has claimed tens of thousand of victims to PTSD.

There is a great big discrepancy here! He was an ongoing poster boy for the extremes of PTSD directly related to his Viet Nam war experiences.


Is this what we expect will happen to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans if the VA fails to stabilize their PTSD? Will their families be denied benefits if they end their own lives? Anyone’s answer to this question will be greatly appreciated.

July 20, 1947August 24, 2007

15 comments to PTSD claims a very dear friend – I share my sadness

  • […] PTSD claims a very dear friend – I share my sadness   –  37 years suffering from PTSD, the VA finally re-evaluated and acknowledged his condition after 15 years of benefit applications.  My friend and neighbor was decorated Marine and a Tunnel Rat in Viet Nam.  His experiences were horrific.  By the time VA decided to help, the PTSD had progressed beyond drugs and therapy. My friend lived in drug induced limbo for another 17 years until a bureaucratic discrepancy denied his medications for 2 weeks.  By the time the medications were approved, my friend took his own life and left a note of apology to his family and friends. […]

  • To All Responders To This post:

    This comment is from his wife and her children.

    We would like to thank all of you who have commented, and thank you for your kind thoughts for our beloved Joe. As we read through the comments, we know that we are not alone during this most difficult time for us. Again thank you all.

  • ButtonG:
    You are so right about the mental health coverage.

    I have just done an update on a PTSD lawsuit for Veterans United fr Truth.

    This total disregard has to stop.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. PTSD is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve known a few war vets that suffered or are still suffering with it. And I also have a close female friend that still suffers with it 11 years now after she was raped. So I know what you’ve witnessed with your friend, and I’m sorry that he’s not with us anymore.

    Let this be a reminder that mental health needs to be a part of basic health coverage. If you’re sick, you’re sick. It doesn’t matter what the particular ailment is. People that suffer from PTSD need care just like someone with a knee problem or a cancer patient needs care. Your friend is proof of that.

  • Steve:
    Thank you for your kind words. This blog will continue to write about PTSD and hopefullly educate more people on the horrors of it.

    It is my firm belief that the more knowledge we share and the more pressure that is put on the military and Congress, the families who suffer with PTSD will get the care and respect they deserve.

  • This is tragic. My heart goes out to you, his friends, and his family. I will pray for you all. As a former Marine who has not been in combat, I have known quite a few who have been. They all have stories to tell when the time is right. PTSD is real, and there is no shame in seeking help, but the military environment can sometimes serve to discourage veterans from seeking the help they need.

    So, so sorry for your loss.

  • I would like to point one more thing, to the military it doesn’t matter if a soldier is decorated or not to be denied benefits. Those things don’t matter.

    He was a decorated Marine:
    Sgt. in the 1st Marine Division in Chu Lai 1969-1970
    Presidential Unit citation;
    Navy Unit Commendation ribbon;
    Vietnam Service Medal with 4 bronze stars;
    Republic of Vietnam MUC Gallantry Cross;
    Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal;
    Marine Corp Expert Rifle Badge;
    National Defense Service Medal and
    Marine Corp Good Conduct Medal

  • Thank you all for your kind words. It has become very clear, in a tragic way, that the military does not care for their own. Even with all their recent media attention on about neglect.

    When you read the stories about PTSD and how the military is dismissing and changing diagnosis for their own benefit and denying families, it is truly disgraceful.

    Seeing first hand what our friends went through with PTSD is very sad. PTSD causes these families live in a constant world of unknown and change from day to day. And yet, the military’s attitude is to turn their back.

    The Iraq war has and will continue to produce PTSD victims. Many will lead normal lives until the bomb goes off and the families will be changed forever. They will continually fight the VA to get the proper treatment and benefits their loved ones deserve.

    BossKitty has continually written about PTSD because of the first hand knowledge. It is outrageous to us that the military has not learned from it’s neglect of Viet Nam vets to help the Iraq and Afghanistan vets.

  • Thank you Christopher, PTSD is something this country will learn about all over again. Understand, Iraqis and Afghans are well in to the deepest and darkest forms of this problem. Their only support group is Taliban and Al Qaeda. Suicide is a relief to their suffering, cloaked in religious fanaticism.

  • Proud, Thank you so much for your understanding, I watched him for years when we worked together putting shuttles into space. We worked the same shift a lot. In the frequent stressful moments of night shift demands from Mission Control, he would change personalities right before my eyes. His whole demeanor would become terrifying and subdue any thought of crossing his decisions. One night he lifted a co-worker above his head and threatened to toss him into a huge electronic console. The disagreement was minor. We calmed him down and sent him outdoors for a cigarette. This was before we discovered his diagnosis. Later when his family moved next door, we buried our hatchets and became close.
    The VA ultimately diagnosed him with the most extreme presentation of PTSD in their history. His case is well documented. The thought that his wife would be denied benefits turns my face red … he and I had very different kinds of PTSD. He helped me a lot to deal with my own. The common denominator is a feeling of total helplessness in the face of a memory or a specific trauma. All of us carry different levels of PTSD within us. Something can always a trigger an episode … it is a matter of degree.

  • With the sucide rates sky rocketing the VA must not be allowed to deny benefits and play word games with diagnosis and injuries. That is a classic shill game of three card monty , like the insurance companies play – it is not what the soldiers expect. Now some may say – hell why did they join in the first place, but that is beside the point. They were promised something and the VA finds ways to re design their contacts and obligations with the swoop of a pen..its completely unacceptable. PTSD is often a life time condition, that can be in remission and can re emerge at any time. Hence the name Post Traumatic Stress – disorder. In its acute stages it is crippling, in remission, it waits like a cancer cell, waiting for a trigger , which can vary from person to person depending on the origins of the orignial trauma. IT is real, it is dangerous. It destroys lives and families. Boss Kitty i am so sorry.

  • bosskitty i am so so sorry, take some time, off really as this must effect you on so many levels. This is a tragedy for this man and his family.

    Got to tell you , a retired social worker, at the time of illegal invasion of Iraq -the big picture was the FIRST thing that popped into my head..the country was financially broke -how were we going to care for the Veterans. HOW ? I also then thought what about a generation of a the work force – they will be injured, disabled. Kiss that good bye too.

    Now we see daily, that the Military is being Medically UNETHICAL in switching diagnosis, sending people back into combat, ignoring TBIs , medicating the troops in the war zone. And the suicide rates of the troops home and abroad are sky rocketing upwards. Brace yourselves people – we are in an error that will not look like the Vietnam Era , society has changed too much. Once the stereotypical damaged, VN vet could isolate themselves, get off the grid so to speak, or plunge into a life of solitary drug addiction. What will our Iragi and Afgan. vets do ? What will they do , as the VA systematically ignores them, does not treat them ?

    We have created a crisis that has yet to fully come home to roost and when it does…..well. Many of us, can say we saw this coming, but really the perpetrators of this illegal occupation should be held accountable and punished. Millions Millions will be affected here and in the M.E.

  • My condolences on your loss.

    This is something I know very little about. I looked up PTSD and is sounds like a trip through the gates of hell for the victim.

    A tragedy.

  • Thanks Phil, I am dealing with memories right now. They were my co-workers since the early 1980s, and neighbors in the early 1990s. It was a constant worry, when he fell into one of his darker moments, whether he would hurt his wife, or himself. He helped me during one of my own PTSD events, it seemed to help when we shared a lot of common memories together. He was in to guns and Harleys. His better moments surrounded his Harleys. I will provide what solace I can to my neighbor and extended family.

  • I’m so sorry. Best to you and your friend’s family.

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