December 2011, thousands of American troops will return home for good. President Barack Obama announced the Iraq war will be over by year's end.
However, statistics show that 1 in 5 service members will wage another war when they arrive home - in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD. PTSD plagues thousands of veterans every day, forcing them to relive the horrors of war.
Medical officials say many refuse to admit they suffer from it. Others don't receive the proper care they need, leading to tragic consequences.
Here are the stories of two men suffering from the dangers of PTSD. Both heroes paid a dear price for their service to our country. They also serve as examples that there is much more to do to help our veterans deal with it.
It was a late night in April 2010.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Marine Captain Scott Sciple had been drinking heavily and was driving on the wrong side of a Tampa interstate.
Pedro Martinez and his wife Carmen were on their way home that evening when Sciple plowed right into them, killing Pedro.
Sciple's defense attorney. John Fitzgibbons, argues his client is a victim as well. Sciple suffers from PTSD.
Fitzgibbons said Sciple believed he was on military deployment that night.
The attorney wrote in a quote, "Brain damage and PTSD caused Sciple to blackout in a dissociative episode the night of the crash."
Sciple is a Mobile native. He graduated from Murphy High School and later became a decorated combat veteran who served four combat tours. He witnessed numerous horrific scenes of death and had a number of close calls with death.
The Marine Corps conducted an investigation into Captain Sciple, and the Associated Press provided some of the documents to FOX10 News.
The documents note that on April 4, 2003, while in Iraq, 2nd Lt. Sciple's platoon was involved in an unintentional civilian casualty incident resulting in the deaths of women and children. Sciple later buried some of the civilians.
In 2009, Sciple was in Iraq on another deployment. On June 4, Sciple suffered wounds from an enemy rocket attack.
The point of impact of the rocket was approximately 30 feet from him.
Sciple sustained significant wounds to his right forearm that required a combat application tourniquet to stop the bleeding, and he soon lost consciousness. Marines administering aid thought Sciple had bled to death.
After he was transferred to California, Sciple exhibited strange behaviors. On June 24, 2009, Captain Sciple drove to a store to buy sunglasses and several hours later he "woke up" in Mexico after he hit a curb on the side of the road.
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The report notes that Sciple wanted to ‘keep the Mexico incident quiet as it might adversely impact his career and his chance for command of a rifle company.'
The military report notes many different odd behaviors like sleep walking, memory loss, and flashbacks.
Despite showing symptoms of PTSD, the military found Sciple fit for duty. Everything came to halt with that fateful accident in April 2010.
In the report, Colonel John P. Crook wrote - 'This... reveals a disturbing vulnerability in the support we provide our combat veterans suffering the invisible wounds of PTSD.'
Neither Sciple's attorney nor his family wanted to comment for our story. However, FOX10 wanted to find out if the government is falling short in treating our heroes who live with PTSD.
Jimmy 'Cleve' Kinsey
"He always seemed to be the guy that everybody loved," says Kinsey's wife, Karie Fugett.
Jimmy ‘Cleve' Kinsey grew up in Foley and later became a mortar man in the Marine Corps.
On April 1, 2006, during his second tour of duty, Cleve's life took a dramatic detour.
"He was driving in a Humvee in Ramadi, and he hit an IED and the IED blew up his side of the Humvee the most," said Fugett.
In 2006, Cleve Kinsey sat down for a series of interviews with FOX10 News.
"At that time I saw it, and I was just tensed up, and the next thing I know, 'Boom!' Truck over on the side, my foot's stuck in between the steering wheel and the dash board, and I'm hanging upside down by my foot," he said in one interview.
His leg was mangled and shattered.
"Just imagine yourself on the football field and getting hit full speed by a linebacker, or a Mack truck," Kinsey said in another interview.
It was a tough road to recovery as Kinsey sought treatment for his injuries at Walter Reed Medical Center.
"You start hitting your pain button and waiting for it to go away. It was excruciating," he said.
Despite the pain, he was optimistic about his recovery.
"I'll be back to 100 percent. It's going to take nothing but time," he added.
Time came, but recovery didn't.
Over the next year, doctors tried to save it but his leg was soon amputated. While undergoing treatment, Fugett said her husband showed signs of PTSD.
"At the same times he was showing signs of pill addictions. He was prescribed all these meds and after a while he started to become addicted to them, and I think that the pills started to become a crutch for his PTSD because it was his way of dealing with it," Fugett said.
She also said military doctors were primarily concerned with treating his leg before addressing his PTSD. Over time, she said his PTSD symptoms got worse.
"He would get really angry," Fugett recalled. "He was arrested for domestic violence one night. There was a gun involved. I don't know if he would've killed me, but there were times that he was completely sober that he would sit me down and just said that it was a fight with himself, because when he got mad he felt like he could kill somebody. And what do you say to someone who sits you down and says something like that?"
At times, Fugett flushed Kinsey's pills down the toilet. She said it infuriated him, but she did it for his safety and for hers.
"We tried to tell doctors, but people didn't take us very seriously at that point. At least, I didn't feel that they did. Perhaps it's because they had too many soldiers to deal with," Fugett said.
She said Kinsey became more depressed and more abusive. Eventually he went into PTSD therapy to deal with his inner demons and pill addiction.
"He said that he had a list of things he wanted to do to fix all the damage that he had done, and I feel like he was starting to understand his PTSD a little bit better," she recalled.
On the morning of April 20, 2010, Cleve Kinsey was found dead. The death certificate says he died from a prescription drug overdose.
"I like to think that he was improving, and he sort of died trying," Fugett said.
She does not think her husband got the help he needed.
"I think they tried the best they could but it was too little too late," Fugett said.
Psychological Battle of PTSD
Let's explore this psychological battle that brings the front lines to the home front.
The National Library of Medicine said PTSD can occur after any traumatic event, like an abuse, car wreck, or in many cases, combat.
PTSD can constantly haunt the sufferer - many victims become emotionally withdrawn or irritable; and some frequently relive their horrifying experiences.
"Sometimes we talk about what we call a sense of ‘foreshortened future,' people who can't imagine that they're gonna live to a ripe old age," former veteran counselor Dr. Joe Law said.
Dr. Law said for decades, PTSD was not fully understood.
"What we now call PTSD dates back to 1981," Dr. Law said.
Before that, though, it went through many different names: ‘Shell shock' in World War 1, ‘Combat fatigue' in World War 2, and he said during Vietnam, soldiers were simply diagnosed as having personality disorders.
He said many of these veterans did not receive the care they needed because their conditions were not considered very serious. Of course, now we know otherwise. He said over the past 30 years, great strides have been made to treat PTSD. Sadly, some veterans pay a dear price for their service, like Jimmy ‘Cleve' Kinsey.
MORE STATS ON PTSD
A White House report said more than 2 million service members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.
A report by the Nonpartisan RAND Corporation said service members are sent on an average of two deployments, each about 12-15 months in average length.
The RAND Corporation said approximately 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD.
Researchers say long deployment times contribute to the development of the illness.
Dr. Law said the repeated patterns of deployment and homecoming harms veterans as they deal with their PTSD.
"I routinely see people who've served three, four, five tours. And it's hard for them, once they adjust to civilian life, they're back in what they call the sandbox," Dr. Law said.
He added that many veterans brush off PTSD symptoms for fear of embarrassment, or losing their job. He warns, though, that as the Middle East conflicts come to a close, the military could soon reduce its force, and we'll see more people with PTSD.
"A lot of those people will join the unemployment line, so they won't be able to get military care and they'll need to get care elsewhere. So I think there will be a strain on our resources," the doctor said.
Dr. Law said our government is making great strides at treating PTSD, but more needs to be done.
"At some of our military bases, they need to have more counselors, more therapists, more mental health people," said Law.
Fugett thinks the military needs to be more proactive. Perhaps it could've saved her husband.
"Get treated for it immediately. You don't have to wait for it to get worse, wait for your family to fall apart, or wait for you to kill yourself," said Fugett. "Once their lives start falling apart, it's even harder to get out of it because now they're not only dealing with PTSD, they're dealing with divorce or job loss, it's so important to take care of it right away."
In the Marine Corps investigation involving Capt. Sciple, Colonel Crook wrote that the Marine Corps should better screen and treat combat veterans for PTSD.
"All Marine Corps activities [should] raise awareness of the symptoms of PTSD and the use of alcohol as it relates to PTSD and establish mechanisms and procedures to immediately refer treatment for those in need," he said.
Crook also wrote the Marines Corps leadership should ‘develop a ‘Marine Corps educational program to remove the cultural pressure that suppresses self-disclosure of PTSD and other forms of mental and psychological trauma for fear that it might be detrimental to one's career.'
Perhaps more could've been done for these two men, but that doesn't mean more innocent service members or victims should suffer.
Dr. Law said the military is doing what it can. It currently offers stress-prevention programs to help service members prevent or deal with PTSD, and researchers are discovering new ways to detect PTSD.
"I don't think that we have to look at any of our veterans as victims, so much as heroes that have sacrificed for their country and that's just one way that they sacrificed," said Dr. Law.
Captain Scott Sciple will have a DUI manslaughter trial in November 2011 and sadly, it's too late to help Cleve Kinsey.
Perhaps their stories can serve as a lesson. These stories underscore the fact that PTSD is not something that veterans should be ashamed of sharing. Instead it should be viewed as a serious condition - a condition that needs more medical research and treatment.
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