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Army Grapples With PTSD

The Army grappling with PTSD after the murder charges against Robert Bales. We’ll dig in.

U.S. soldiers with the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) kneel on the ground, as they control the area during a foot patrol in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012.  (AP)

U.S. soldiers with the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) kneel on the ground, as they control the area during a foot patrol in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (AP)

We don’t know if Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was ever diagnosed with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder.

We do know he’s sitting in military prison, charged with seventeen counts of murder – including nine children.  Killed in a terrible night of bloody rampage.

And we do know he was troubled and wounded and in his fourth tour in ten years of war.  Since the March 11th massacre, the US Army has announced it is again reviewing all its mental health programs and its screening process for sending soldiers to war.

This hour, On Point:  Battle stress, and the real cost of PTSD.

-Tom Ashbrook


Hal Bernton, a reporter with the Seattle Times, he’s been covering the case of Robert Bales and the new revelations of the military’s handling of PTSD cases.

Daniel Zwerdling, a correspondent in NPR’s Investigations Unit. You can find his series of investigative stories — reported in collaboration with ProPublica– about how the military deals with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries here.

Dr. Jonathan Shay, a retired psychiatrist, he worked with the department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston for more than 20 years. He is the author of Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, and Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Over the years, high-ranking Army officials have spoken out about how those strains were affecting morale and the mental health of the troops. Official surveys and studies have researched the relationships between repeated deployments and a range of problems, like marital stress, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder. Commanders have said that they are acutely aware of the problems that can follow combat, even as they have expressed pride in the resiliency of the rank and file.”

The Associated Press “The Army is reviewing all its mental health programs and its screening process in light of the March 11 shooting spree in two slumbering Afghan villages that killed families, including nine children.”

Seattle Times “A Madigan Army Medical Center screening team reversed more than 40 percent of the post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses of patients under consideration for medical retirement since 2007, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.”

The New York Times “Like many soldiers, he was more concerned with figuring out how to cope from one deployment to the next than with finding a direction. He is different now. The bombing, the P.T.S.D. and the challenges he faced changed him. And he thinks he has changed for the better.”


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  • http://twitter.com/TweeterSmart b smart

    Afghan war syndrome, people NEVER factor in external costs. we only think about the now and the close future; much to our on peril.

  • Rich

    That’s where all problems stem from in this country. Failure to face up to the truth AND MAKE THE HARD DECISIONS!!!! If your an individual contributor and you fail – you fail yourself. If you’re a supposed leader? and you fail, YOU FAIL OTHERS!!!!

    Anyone can do the EASY stuff – it takes REAL LEADERS TO SOLVE THE HARD PROBLEMS (face the truth)! I haven’t seen too many LEADERS around these days!!!!

    They think – “HEY LET’S TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT” and then WE PAY MANY TIMES OVER IN THE END – GUTLESS POLITICIANS. I guess that’s why Senator Snowe and others are bowing out!!!! She doesn’t see too many around with her courage to reach across the isle and solve problems!!!!

    Bring back Tip O’Neil!!!! He knew how to be Speaker Of The House. Maybe we could clone him – we certainly need something to solve our problems!!!! What a screwed up country!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Henry/100000828361154 Terry Henry

    As a provider of free Service Dogs for both Active-Duty and Veteran Military with PTSD and TBI – we can tell you this is an issue that will haunt us as a nation for a very long time. Another similar and growing issue is sexual trauma within the military – and the havoc this causes. Keep talking – maybe someone will listen. http://www.paws4vets.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    I can barely grasp the scope of this problem but simply the fact that it exists and has existed for some time suggests the need for drastic improvement in our care and support infrastructure and policies. What type of investment are we looking at here when it comes to actually providing adequate care to all of our Veterans of foreign wars? How long before we can ramp that up and what are the bureaucratic and political obstacles to doing so?

  • Hidan

    Why is it that Americans are the only ones that we talk about suffering from PTSD when they commit a terrible act? (Sgt Bales).

    Ever hear the media talk about the Taliban having PTSD or Afghan who shoot at Americans? Normally it’s reported that when others(muslims,arabs,blacks) do such acts it’s base on religioun and being evil while when (whites,Americans) do the same like fly a plane into the IRS building,Pee on a bunch of afgan dead, rape a 12 girl in iraq, the first defense is it’s PTSD or Mental issues(which could be true) but this is selectivly applied is my issue and often is used as an excuse to justify bad behavior.

    Formerly being in the military I can tell you that I met some who clearly suffer from it and refuse to get help(normally until the end of there time in). Mainly due to the stigma and how it effects promotions.

     I think people should really start looking into returning vets who join the police department and if they suffer from PTSD

    • Tim E

      My thought when I started to hear coverage of this was that since Bales is an American soldier conservatives would rally around the “war is hell” and “mental suffering” excuses, in a way that they would never do for an inner city murderer.  It’s sadly no longer surprising that some of the very people who usually decry mental illness as a valid defense will rally to the defense of an American soldier in terms of PTSD, with Afghan murder victims as little more than props in the background.

  • Brettearle

    Diminished capacity ought to be–at least under some circumstances–a legitimate defense for soldiers, who commit atrocities in war.  That certainly does NOT mean, however, that such a defense ought to be used to avoid taking responsibility for criminal behavior. 

    While no one can easily predict murderous violence by an individual, there are extraorordinary circumstances, in life–and I would argue War is sometimes one of those circumstances–wherein someone can unpredictably snap…..especially if there are an inordinate number of stressors, on that person.

    Because there is such an understandable emphasis on personal responsibility for one’s actions and because there is such a generalized stigma on Criminal Defense Attorneys– who supposedly try to get their clients “off” on any technicality
    –many who seek revenge, and not justice, will condemn the defense of Diminshed Capacity.

    Such a condemnation is unfair and ignorant. 

    That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that Bales falls into the category of a defendant who fits the parameters of such a defense. 

    • Ellen Dibble

      I’m trying to listen and read and reply, but let me say that I cheer for criminal defense attorneys.  I believe that everybody needs somebody committed to their side, and that this is a very special skill when you’re up against The Law.  The dedication and skill of criminal defense attorneys can get their clients onto the best track their life offers, such as their choices may be, using a lot of experience both with the law and with people whose lives require such expertise.  I am in awe of it.  The best defense lawyers can see the potentials in their clients in ways that the judge and jury (and certainly the prosecution) have no obligation to understand and stand for.

  • Patrik

    I’m an Air Force vet (support side) and never spent time in real combat, so I had time to prepare to enter the civilian market for employment.  I fear employers are generalizing those who were in combat as having PTSD and Ssgt Bales, among other incidents, has all but ‘validated’ their concerns and reluctance to hire combat vets.

    • Brettearle

      It’s a good point and an unfortunate one.

      It’s an Employer’s Market out, there–and those who are in a position to hire can, more freely, check-list prospective applicants.  Such a winnowing can get to the point where Managers can reject potential employees, for numerous reasons that have no foundation in fact and are only the result of idiosyncratic perception. 

      Bias has, no doubt, been `employed’ more and more, by Human Resources, in the current job market, where the unemployment rate is still quite high. 

      Being unemployed for a protracted period of time is one glaring example–of such unfair judgement–that is being reported, periodically, in Media.

    • Jere

      Patrik, go suck an egg and I hope you lose your job!  That was an UNamerican statement.

      • Patrik

        I didn’t mean that I think it validates their concerns or reluctance but that is what I have observed in the past while working and employers will point to situations like that.  What branch did you serve in again?

        • Jere

          The Marines!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Robert Bales might not be the best exemplar for PTSD.  For instance I’m copying this from the Daily Mail in the UK, the online version for today:  ” Her statement comes amid claims that Bales was more than $1million in debt and had defrauded a pensioner out of his life savings.
    Federal documents show how he scammed pensioner Gary Liebschner of Carroll, Ohio, of more than $800,000 in a stock scam just before he enlisted in the army.
    Financial regulators found in 2003 how Bales ‘engaged in fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, unauthorised trading and unsuitable investments’.

    Liebschner claims the then stock broker, working for Ohio brokerage firm MPI, took his life savings of $852,000 in AT&T stock and reduced its value to nothing through a series of trades.”

    • Brettearle

      If someone is dishonest in one aspect of his life–even glaringly so–it does not necessarily mean that he can’t be the victim the PTSD.

      I’m not suggesting that Sgt. Bales suffers fromn PTSD.

      But you can’t judge criminal violence based on financial fraud.

      Your comment is an example of how we unfairly prejudge individuals.   

      • Ellen Dibble

        I know.  We (I) try to use stereotypes whenever possible, usually at first glance.  In this case, I want to point out that there is probably a psychological reality about piling on.  (a) former problems with the law; (b) former problems with finances; (c) alcohol; and (d) PTSD.  We talk about breaking points, and I don’t think that’s just a common delusion.  It probably exists.

        • Brettearle

          Thanks for your reply.

          Read my comment at 8:52 AM and tell me what you think. 

    • Jere

      Ellen, you are bouncing off the walls, here!  That was then…..THIS IS NOW!
      He has more than paid his dues.  Move on…..

  • Ellen Dibble
  • Ellen Dibble

    A clinical approach to trauma, as opposed to character disorders that get exacerbated by what I’ll call a disorderly life, where you can’t get control of “things,” is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).  Here’s a snip, phase 4, from Wikipedia:  “The therapist asks the patient to focus simultaneously on the image, the negative cognition, and the disturbing emotion or body sensation. Then the therapist usually asks the client to follow a moving object with his or her eyes; the object moves alternately from side to side so that the client’s eyes also move back and forth. After a set of eye movements, the client is asked to report briefly on what has come up; this may be a thought, a feeling, a physical sensation, an image, a memory, or a change in any one of the above. In the initial instructions to the client, the therapist asks him or her to focus on this thought, and begins a new set of eye movements. Under certain conditions, however, the therapist directs the client to focus on the original target memory or on some other image, thought, feeling, fantasy, physical sensation, or memory. From time to time the therapist may query the client about his or her current level of distress. The desensitization phase ends when the SUDS (Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale) has reached 0 or 1.”
        It sounds to me you could do this for yourself, linking physical motion and its counterparts in the brain to something bad, to something good, and essentially learning to move them.  Maybe a lot of us have “shocking” experiences that we learn to “move” into sort of insulated spaces of the subconscious.  

    • ana

      For perhaps milder lingering stresses, the book “Walking Your Blues Away” by Thom Hartmann presents a method, enabled by use of opposite sides of the body during ambulation, is helpful and explains the science behind it.

      • Ellen Dibble

        I hadn’t thought of that.  But I think depression is different in that in PTSD, the brain seems to have gotten programmed by trauma, in the way it responds, versus depression which may be more of a physiological disregulation disconnected from subconscious memory/experience, where someone depressed can mobilize certain hormones by walking (“walking the blues away”), and that can have the same effect as medication.   I don’t think there IS a medication for PTSD because it’s more about brain wiring (mis-wiring, but affecting biochemistry I’d suspect) than about biochemistry being off (my understanding of depression).

  • Bruce

    Rather than PTSD, this sounds more like a case of the side-effects of  mefloquine.  To bad we are focusing on PTSD when these guy are so hyped up on drugs to turn them into killers.  Look into drugs…ask your guests about it.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I don’t know about mefloquine, but doesn’t a person with PTSD have a far higher chance of becoming addicted to drugs, both legal and illegal?  So — a vicious circle:  stress, medications, problems with managing potentially addictive medications or the effects of nonaddictive ones, and then more stress from life falling apart in various ways, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Cost estimates for a soldier in Afghanistan for a year range from $815,000 to $1.2 million.  Cutting their lifetime benefits which cost a comparable amount to a year of not making any progress in Afghanistan is unconscionable. 

  • leftofcenter

    In all of this coverage, nobody’s talking about a key point. Roughly ten percent of the US population has some form of PTSD. Trayvon Martin’s family could have it. If you really want to try and understand this, look at all aspects of it. Not just the ones that you can hype for ratings.

    • Frank

      Be thankful the issue is on the table at all. In today’s culture, just caring about people as people is *not* on the table. You have to have a special claim. Have you served? OK, you might have PTSD. Are you gay? All right, you may be bullied at school. 

      Are you merely human? It’s lousy for everybody, so suck it the hell up, cowboy. This *is* the best of all possible worlds, so don’t rock the boat.

      • Jere

        Thank you Frank!

    • Jere

      That’s asking too much of anyone!  Pity any soldier who has been sent back to that Godforsaken country 4 times!
      It was cruel and inhuman when he specifically asked them not to send him back again!  We are not talking about the world here.  Just this soldier’s case.  Stay focused, leftofcenter.  

  • Nutricj

    We know he suffered a brain injury and regardless of the military deciding he was fit to go back to battle for yet a third time- the fact is we still know so very little about the lasting psych impacts that it is irresponsible at the very least for Bales to have been sent back and the many others that go back again and again with brain injuries. This is tragic, heartbreaking, and gut wrenching- but completely to be expected as an outcome. If his arms or limbs had been blown off his body he would not have been sent back- just because we cannot visually see the “broken” parts of his mind, he is no less injured!

    • Jere

      Well said!   YES!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    There is no cure for PTSD and it is very hard to diagnose a soldier.

    We can only find out when something happened to that soldier like recurring nightmares or suddenly became violent after a tour of duty. But when a soldiier is on active duty it’s rare to see PTSD. because I think the soldier’s brain is still full of adrenalin rush. he forgets about incident when engage in extreme combat experience . If the gun fire stop and calm takes over then the sickness comes alive.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      p.s. I see them on the news regularly and I also read a lot of news about soldiers getting psychotic after their tour of duty.

  • Pnsret

    Drugs and alcohol have been mentioned in passing…it could have been an alcohol induced blackout, the alcohol intensifing the PTSD and drugs.  Was drug screen/alcohol testing done after the indicent? 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68


    They said a career soldier will never get married or have kids to avoid emotional breakdown on family members. another case of PTSD among widowed wives.

  • Anonymous

    Stop politicizing mental illness.  Incidence of serious mental illness is very high in civilian population. (1in 5) Incidence of mass killings in military is low compared to civilian deaths from incidents like Columbine or Virginia Tech.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      True: That’s why America is the most nation in the world.

      Every physicians will prescribe an anti-deppressant drugs from ages of 5 years old.

  • David Olson

    All TBIs are not created equal.  Even with similar injuries (or mechanism of injury), critical circuits can sometimes be spared or severely injured.   In some cases, concussive injury (or TBI) has been associated with personality changes, impulse control problems and general difficulty with mood regulation and behavioral inhibition.  For example, there is a correlation in men  between history of head injury and increased risk of being involved in domestic battery.  Detailed neuropsychological testing can help – but this is an imperfect and not by any means fully developed.  The injured brain can also be much more sensitive to the side effects of prescription and other drugs.

  • Ellen Dibble

    By the way, you’d think everyone in southern Afghanistan would have PTSD by now.  Are there cultural differences in the way stresses are incorporated into the personality?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      if the people of southern Afghanistan are not use in hearing gun fires and seeing blood almost everyday. I think thousands of Afghani will be crazy by now.

      • Ellen Dibble

        I know.  And the government, such as it is, is one of corruption, which apparently has been the Afghan norm (historians, am I right?), a norm where corruption equals “impunity” (quoting from General Allen, I believe it was, characterizing Karzai’s government’s corruption, on CBS in the last couple of days).   What a life.

      • Jere

        Blow them all up and let the Lord decide.  We have sacrificed enough for their stupid religious wars.
        Bring our poor broken soldiers home!

  • Brian

    When an American soldier commits mass murder we seek to exculpate him with explanations of stress and psychological distress–when foreign combatants, living under stresses equal or greater to the the stresses our soldiers suffer, commit essentially equivalent acts, we demonize them as terrorists and fanatics.  Nobody ever asks if the guy in the suicide vest had PTSD

    • Nutricj

      I strongly believe that most terrorists have been brain washed, suffer PTSD, etc etc. often from early child hood. It is not true- we always ask these questions!

    • Jere

      Who gives a flying flip about what our enemies feel or believe.  We have given thousands of lives and limbs to those stupid religious fanatics and also financially ruined our country and you want us to feel their pain?  Give me a break!  Glad you are not leading this country.  Are you a muslim?

  • Jere Stanger

    I am curious how this case with Bales compares to the mass murder in July 2009 by a Muslim/American psychiatrist, who killed 13 people 12 of them soldiers, at Fort Hood.  Plus, he wounded 29 people.  What was his fate and why is he still alive?  This current case is receiving a lot of bad press and much more than we heard about Major Hasan in 2009.   He hasn’t even been to trial, 3 yrs. later!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      He was A TERRORIST with no history of PTSD. just a cold blooded killer. He decided to kill because of his belief not because he is insane.

      • Jere

        Fax:  Was that a proven fact?  There has been nothing about it in the news.  Why has he never gone to trial.?   He was born in the US

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

          He was on the news almost everyday for almost a month after he shot those defenseless soldiers. there was even a special report about him from 2 to 3 major networks and all reported he is Normal no signs of insanity. even passed a psychological exams and even wore muslim clothes in the camp.

        • Frank

          That an Army psychiatrist could go that far would be a real blot on the Medical Corps. I can understand if they don’t want their day-to-day, unofficial policy made public. 

      • Jcox713

        This is  just Amazing.  We tender-foot around this soldier and his poor PTSD. We coddle him, try to understand, try to be sensitive to this poor, poor man.  Aww. He murdered 16 people? Well, he must have been going through a lot. Tsk Tsk. Give him a blankie and play a lullaby.   Have we ever applied this same type of thoughtfulness in trying to understand why an Afghan or an Iraqi blows himself up and kills innocents?  Do you think he might have a case of PTSD too?  No. We disregard them as murderers. Period. No attempt at understanding. No pity.  Not an American? Then just cast them as evil – plain and simple.   It is just like a mother who will defend her child no matter what he does – even if he commits murder.  She will always justify his actions no matter how heinous. 

        • Jere

          And you know this how?  Have YOU ever served in a war?  I have seen relatives come back from the horror of war and scream all night in their sleep for yrs. never being the person they were again. 
          You are very judgmental and hard hearted.
          We are not supposed to take on the culture of our enemies.  Nor feel sorry for them.  If your son ever went to war you would feel much differently.

          • Jcox713

            I’m not hard hearted…I am trying to make the point that there is a serious double standard here. ANY MAN on earth could go nuts living in the shadow of war.  Whether he is an American OR Islamic,or whatever.  But would an Islamic man ever get this kind of thoughtful consideration if HE  went berserk and killed 16 Americans?  Of course not!    My point is that we explain away the action of this soldier because he is an American, and dear to us, but we never even give a moment’s consideration when the perpetrator is on the “other side.”  Don’t you think PTSD  exists in the Afghans and Iraqis too!? 

          • Jere

            Who cares?  They are the enemy!  Not our problem.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    I commented before that Filipino soldiers that are engaged in extreme combat experience. the lack of medical and food supplies but there are only a small percentage of Filipino soldiers with post traumatic experienced.
    When I wrote this comment 2 years ago tons were against me but the case is actually true. American soldiers are more susceptible in having PTSD compared to Filipino soldiers.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Apparently the high cost of rating a soldier leaving the service with PTSD, 50 percent disability, I heard, and a cost to the taxpayer of a million and a half dollars — that is counterproductive, in that it makes doctors reluctant to diagnose it, and it probably also makes the unscrupulous try to get that diagnosis by saying what they figure out they are supposed to say.  I’ve heard about that from long ago.  
        But the result is that fewer soldiers can actually get the treatment needed.  I don’t suppose it actually costs $1.5 million to provide the treatment needed.  If the cost could be brought to $20,000, say, maybe we could more likely get treatment for all those needing treatment.

  • Tom

    PTSD show: re Ambien:

    Tom: I had a friend, great pilot an exceptional flight intstructor and great young man who was about to get his first airline interview. The week of the interview, during a severe cold snap, he took Ambien before going to bed. He was found the next day sitting on his porch in his underwear frozen to death.

    I strongly believe that if Ambien was taken by Sgt. Bates, it is legitimately part of his defense.

    Northampton, MA

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Ambien is that a Conspiracy Theory?

  • Nutricj

    So glad he is highlighting the drugs and brain injury…hope the trial does the same. Thanks so much to the woman caller reminding everyone that no one can comprehend the training and stresses of war if you haven’t been there., let alone been there multiple times.

  • Ren Knopf

    If you have not been in the military; if you have not experienced how pills are dispensed to solve “issues;” if you have not been at the affect of the VA’s way of controlling medical reports, then you know only what you have read and that is not saying much. I have been there and experienced that. This PTSD issue will go on until what is said at the top levels of command actually are heeded at the bottom. Money for technology is easy to come by, but the funds to take care of those coming back – not so much.

    • Frank

      The bottom of command is the problem, you’re right. Senior NCOs have an undeserved reputation as great judges of people. Their real job is to keep them in line and on mission, and to accept no excuses when a soldier can’t deliver. 

      I think the recovery units at Walter Reed proved that many times over – these guys are collateral damage, and their immediate higherups resent having to deal with them.

  • Anne

    It breaks my heart to think that our soldiers feel we do not support their service or recognize their sacrifices. 

    I honor our service men and women and I am deeply moved when I visit Arlington National Cemetery.  

    The reality is, my life and our daily lives have not changed during recent wars.  Historically the country went to war together; not just soldiers b/c private citizens made sacrifices at home but only soldiers and their families sacrifice.

    My question is; does this lack of recognition contribute to isolation among our soldiers make symptoms of PTSD or cause PTSD?



    • Anonymous

       Anne, do you ever think about that pregnant women or the kids who got shot in front of their mothers by a cold blooded nut in the middle of the night?!!
      You seem to be a very sensitive woman, I wonder if you even see other people outside US can be human too?

      • Jere

        Compassion is not what our soldiers are trained to give.  If you are so concerned about the muslims I suggest you move to the Middle East.  Oops!  I forgot, you are in prison, right?  Were you so compassionate when you committed the crime that put you there.???

  • Anonymous

     US is run by the military-industrial complex and as such people are brainwashed to make heroes out of soldiers no matter what kind of criminals they are!

    US soldiers are trained to De-humanize to make killing easier, they are trained to regards the Iraqis and Afghans as BUGS to make the killing easy. And, when a cold blooded murderer massacres kids and pregnant women, there are programs like this to justify the murderer, and the brainwashed public will continue to “support our troops” because they are “Our boys”. The guy’s wife saying that he has not have a bad night’s sleep or lack of concentration, goes out of the window.

    • Frank

      You overreact like hell, but you do point out one fact: Training is sacrosanct. For civilians, or even ex-military, to criticize training is something the military deeply resents. 

      • Anonymous

         Frank, overreact to what? To the killing rampage of the guy massacring kids and pregnant woman? Or, to the fact that AVERAGE AMERICAN will put the yellow ribbon in support of “our boys”, regardless?

        US IS RUN by military-industrial complex, and average US-citizen IS brought up from childhood to feel inadequate in supporting “the troop”.

        • Jere

          I wish you would keep you unamerican posts off this site…UNTIL you have ever served in the military.  Apparently, you are in prison as your moniker indicates.  Fine one to be downing our country or our troops.  I don’t appreciate your comments!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    Tell me how many of you are taking anxiety, anti-depressant or any other psycho drugs (sorry that’s how i call those pills)?

  • ianway

    He’s the universal soldier

    And he really is to blame

    His orders come from far away, no more,

    They come from here and there,

    And you and me and brothers,

    Can’t you see,

    This is not the way we put the end to war.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Escape from New York and Los Angeles with Kurt Russell?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    Major Hasan will be on trial on June 2012 for murdering his own fellow soldiers.

    Terrorist are not part of the Geneve Convention so they can hold a terrorist as long the US government wants them in jail.

  • Frank

    Thanks for this show. I agree with Dr. Shay that the breaking-down point of the system is probably with senior NCOs and company-grade officers. They’re the ones that really uphold the  Army values day-to-day. 

    What are the Army values? Ask the Army: “Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.” There’s nothing in there about compassion. Compassion is not an Army value, so you don’t look to your superiors for it. And turning yourself in as a headcase calls selfless service _and_ personal courage into question. 

    We have to break humans to make soldiers, and when we build them up again, they are going to be missing some of what we call human. And that’s true even if they never meet the enemy. Militaries are not about to recognize that fact unless their civilian superiors demand it. 

    • Rob Shaw

       Frank, I could not disagree more with your notion that the military “breaks” humans and that compassion is not a part of our formation. I am an active duty infantryman with seven combat deployments-I have led 3 platoons (40 men) and 3 companies (200 men) in combat. I was wounded myself in 2005 by a suicide bomber.

      Our military is a reflection of our society-folks come from all over with varied backgrounds, aspirations, etc. Our mantra in combat was “doing things because you HAVE to, not because you CAN” and you would be proud to see the common soldier conduct business overseas.

      Do not let the aberrant behavior of one soldier allow you to form perceptions about the military writ large…we are not a bunch of compassionless-automatons out there.

      I hope the conversation continues because we need to support the folks that served in harm’s way over the last decade, and it will be expensive to do it right.

  • Rob Shaw

    I am an active duty Infantryman with seven combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with both conventional and special operations units. I spent 5 years at Joint Base McChord, was screened for PTSD on numerous occasions (before and after deployment), and received extensive medical care at Madigan Hospital after being severely wounded in Iraq in 2005 by a suicide car bomb.
    The narrative that soldiers are discouraged from seeking medical care for PTSD is, in my opinion, completely wrong. There are certainly exceptions-but in my experience, soldiers are strongly encouraged to seek help when they are struggling, and seeking assistance with PTSD is not a career ender. Not dealing with PTSD can lead to other challenges that will adversely affect career options.

    And my medical care at Madigan was first-rate.

    There was a lot of discussion on the show today about the “causes” of SSG Bales’ murderous behavior…I submit to you the sole person/entity responsible for his actions is SSG Bales, and his behavior does not represent the values of today’s soldiers or the United States Army. 

    • Frank

      Thanks for serving, Rob. It’s good to hear you were well cared for. Tell us though: were you *diagnosed* with PTSD, or did your screenings come up clear? Because it’s possible the Army did fail SSG Bales. 

      I agree his actions don’t represent the Army. I do question whether the Army’s actions always represent them. Consider Ft. Carson and Walter Reed and what heppend there. 

      • RMS

         Frank, great point-like all large organizations, the Army errs, and the consequences can be significant.

        I was not diagnosed-and it is always possible that something was missed with Bales.

  • Mark Chesak

    I suggest people go back and review the Frontline documentary “The Wounded Platoon” as part of this conversation.
    It takes place mostly at Fort Carson Colorado, involves infantry soldiers on multiple deployments and involves Ambien.
    It is interesting Dr. Shay mentioned today in this radio show that
    troops should use this medication as prescribed and not while on a
    deployment.  Well in the Frontline film the troops are prescribed Ambien
    precisely to take on their second deployments, in combat, because the
    Army was running out of troop for the “surge” in Iraq. 

    Frontline: Wounded Platoon



    Before the Iraq War, American soldiers in combat zones were not allowed
    to take prescription medications because it was difficult to get the
    drugs and the doctors to supervise their use to the front lines.

    But by the time of the surge, improved supply lines meant that more
    than 20,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were taking
    antidepressants and sleeping pills. These drugs enable the Army to keep soldiers with post-traumatic stress on the battlefield.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Thanks for the info I love PBS documentaries.
      you should watch this too
      Howie Severino – Filipino Journalist in Basilan (Lamitan) before American troops landed. the report is in English.
      See the facts how Howie Severino will explain how war can affect the human brain or PTSD in his own opinion.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68


    The man who saved the American economy from another great depression Bernanke said today: Stronger job growth has brought “good news” recently, but overall, it remains “out of sync” with the modest growth of the U.S. economy.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

  • Markknoeller

    When someone is re-evaluated and found to no longer have signs of PTSD, can one conclude that the person has recovered?

  • Lara M Gale

    I’ve been in the military reserve for 13 years and when I deployed to Afghanistan with the Army in 2009, I encountered a cultural theme that I think is alarming and should be dealt with as a root of Soldiers’ difficulty with reality post-deployment. The running theme from top leadership on down the ranks to keep up morale in the middle of this largely unproductive ‘war’ is that Soldiers are the top 1% of America’s citizens. Many Soldiers have no experience in the civilian world and they take the ‘savior Soldier’ hubris to an extreme of disrespecting civilians. Even in the Reserve where everyone should know better, this arrogance is rampant. It is esprit de corps warped into an us against them mentaility that breeds all kinds of unhealthy coversation, which becomes unhealthy behavior.

  • Marcus

    I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that unlike the earlier wars, there is no draft today.  No one is forcing you to engage in these conflicts.  It’s your choice.  If you sign up, and we’re grateful if you do, expect PTSD.  These disorders are symptoms of the invasion of Afghanistan.  Not causes.

    • RMS

      Does it make you feel better about your lack of national service to tell a military member that they “signed up for it?” Perhaps if we had a draft in this country we would ask harder questions before deploying our military to war…not having “skin in the game” matters. Where would we be as a nation if we did not have young men and women willing to don the uniform and serve? Recall that our political leaders ask “Should we go to war?” Our military selflessly does what it is told by our elected leadership…and all Americans share culpability for the outcome through either action OR inaction.

      • Marcus

        No need to get personal here.  But since you brought it up, I was actually in the Navy for 6 years.

        • JB

           I was in the Navy and you know that being in the Navy does not privy you to state that you have “seen” war.  We drop troops off and pick them up.  Please do not diminish front line soldiers experiences by comparing them with your limited combat experience.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TOGXHILJGUGCEJQVSGICYW3UTQ Surfer Girl

    1. If we felt the need to understand what veterans are going thru, we’d reinstate the draft.
    2. Imagine how many Afghans suffer Traumatic Stress, because:
          a. It ain’t ending when we leave (omit the P for Post) – they’ve lived thru 30+ years of war.
          b. They were born & raised during war. It’s not a disorder if it’s the norm.

  • Smiclops

    Reinstate mandatory service to your country. Call it Mandatory National Service, or anything like that. No exemptions for money connections, whatever. Granted, not all those who serve can or will serve in a military manner, but make people do something! Help the starving, or the homless in AND out of our country, pick up trash, pick up a gun, pick up a camera, I don’t care what it is but we all need to pitch in so we are all invested in this country of ours, and I’ll tell you what, I may be too old for a draft but if we instated a law like this I’d be the first in line for whatever duty I was assigned. I won’t take credit for this idea tho, good old H. S. Thompson thought of it.

  • Maureenod65

    We spend to train our troops. We spend to arm our troops. We spend to sew up and physically heal our troops but, brain trauma that generates PTSD is revered as ‘weak’? If our forces are so valuable, why brush the weight of this resulting and well defined ‘ALICE pack’ under the rug? Is the cost really that restrictive?

    This is another example of being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’. The real cost of PTSD sustained during wartime isn’t truly realized until these troops return home to their families. They’re different. They’re confused. They’re nervous, anxious and unpredictable; and their trauma-induced conditions often tear apart the very fiber that makes our Nation great – family.

    PTSD is like a STD – The trauma of war keeps giving for years.

    • Raoul

      The real cost is in the military’s self-image. Any organization that cannot fully acknowledge a problem cannot act on it, and there are at least some pockets in the Army where it’s more important to think about “weakness” and your career than to help out a suffering warrior.

  • Kay

    I’m so glad you are having this discussion today.  My brother is in the military and he has had to jump through hoops to get the kind of help and support that he needed after 3+ deployments.  The options available were group therapy sessions that were very difficult to get into and far too large to be effective. 

    I would like to see congress pass a law requiring 10% of every dollar
    spent on the military during times of conflict to be allocated toward
    the mental health of soldier’s.  This would require us all to remember that military conflicts don’t simply come to an end when soldiers get home.

    I would also like to see a policy
    that requires those mental health professionals treating soldiers to be
    separate from the military.  This will ensure the unbiased mental
    health care of soldiers without threat or pressure from the military to
    dismiss or overlook certain behaviors for the benefit of the military

    These policies would hold our government, and more specifically the military, accountable not only to the conflicts we decide to enter, but to the people we ask to fight them. 

    • Patrik

      I agree.

    • Tmajor7

      Great Points Kay. I would love to see these and many other obvious aids come to fruition.

      The U.S. gov’t and their war corporations are well aware of PTSD and the many other sicknesses soldiers are aflicted with. But admitting it isn’t in their scope of desensitivity training. If you read comments here, and on many other blogs, you will notice that most Americans really don’t pay attention to what’s happening to the soldiers both mentally or physically. The ones that do are so far off point and unrealistic when evaluating stories concerning death and destruction involved in the organized murder we know as, war thanks to the desensitivity training we all receive! The gov’t desensitivity training works almost perfectly with the civilian who has never had to endure what soldiers live day to day. A lot of soldiers engaged in the organized murder are severely mentally wounded despite the desensitivity training!

  • K. E. Frost

    As a non-military person diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, I think it would be great if we could discuss the issues with more precision. T.B.I. is a physical injury to the brain. 

    As a result of a TBI a person may experience many complications (should these be called symptoms?) neurologically, cognitively, and emotionally. We then label many of these “complications” by second identifiers such as “depression”, “sleep apnea”, “fatigue”, “short term memory loss”. To identify mental health issues or PTSD loosely with TBI is sloppy and misleading. A TBI may cause mental health issues due to physical injury that results in physical impairment, endocrine or chemical changes, etc. Neither are the result of being “weak”! Dealing with TBI, in our society, has been the most challenging aspect of my entire life.A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY IS ACTUAL PHYSICAL DAMAGE. However, due to a lack of technical ability and comprehensive understanding of all functions of the brain, TBI is essentially treated by throwing a dart at a target and sometimes you get lucky. Think of the football players who, following death, are donating their brains to be studied. Much of the trauma cannot be found until death. Until then, they are dealing with the symptoms of the TBI. TBI is best handled seeking care from a neurologist while PTSD and mental health issues are best handled with help from a mental health professional.Tom – I would love to hear a show about TBI, with clear distinction drawn between PTSD, etc., and our soldiers. Possibly discussing what has changed since WWI, WWII, Vietnam and current day. Was it simply undiagnosed? Ignored? 

    Thank you for reading this. It is something I have thought about a lot.

    • Atty Gordon Johnson

      I completely concur.  I would also love for Tom Ashbrooke to explore TBI further. http://tbivoices.com

  • Fisher27aps

    i didnt get to call in about this topic but my friend Judith advised me of this subject. After 6 deployments I am suffering from PTSD and believe me no one can understand how I am not the person i really am inside my head.

  • Carterp

    exposure to the horrors of war can certainly be a reason for excusing what SGT Bales did. But probably civilian murders can name similar stresses that lead them to do similar acts. Should we excuse a soldier any more than a civilian criminal? 

  • Kooper

    There is no form of recourse in the military.  Everything is open and public knowledge and fodder for the people above you.

  • Stephen Armitage

    i remember developing a health problem while on active duty in the army. i requested an examination. i was never given one. ignored is a better word. after discharge i contacted my congressman. he checked my medical records. i was operated on and the government paid the bill. it shows you how littlte the service cares about their own. you are just a number.

  • tomhill

    The info stated by the reporter from Seattle was incorrect about percentages and retirement monies. Several factors are taken into account to determine the rating given.  Career military people are given different retirement dollars than reserve members. The system is detailed and complex and the error on Hal Benton’s part is unfortunate.

  • tomhill

    The VA Hospital in Brockton Massachusetts gives excellent care. The staff is mostly great but, like anywhere else, there are a couple of duds. The key is to be insistent. If you’re not happy with who you’re seeing, ask for someone else. Another option is to find your local Vet Centers, which are independent from the VA but can advocate for veterans. In addition to individual psychotherapy therapy and physical therapy, there are groups to deal with issues like stress and spousal issues.

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  • Samsara

    Military men and women serve for the sake of all Americans. They deserve care when that service results in PTSD. 

    However, most victims in this country with PTSD suffered domestic abuse often as children. 

    I would rather see a discussion about the similarities between PTSD victims, than multiple discussions in different venues about specific victimizations. 

  • Atty Gordon Johnson

    I have been commenting on these tough issues for some time, starting with the below link. The problem as I see it is that PTSD and TBI are looked at as separate problems, when the synergistic combination of the two is what is particularly lethal.  

    The Nightmare of a
    Wartime Brain Injury  http://www.tbilaw.com/blog/?p=152

  • Anonymous

    PTSD treatment for Veterans found ineffective.Eli Lilly Zyprexa can cause diabetes. I took Zyprexa Olanzapine a powerful Lilly schizophrenic drug for 4 years it was prescribed to me off-label for post traumatic stress disorder was ineffective costly and gave me diabetes.
     *FIVE at FIVE* The Zyprexa antipsychotic drug,whose side effects can include weight gain and diabetes, was sold for “children in foster care, people who have trouble sleeping, elderly in nursing homes.
     *Five at Five* was the Zyprexa sales rep slogan, meaning *5mg dispensed at 5pm would keep patients quiet*. — Daniel Haszard Zyprexa victim activist

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Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

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