From my local newspaper

Care to discuss the current conflict in Iraq and Afganistan?
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Dagger X-Ray
Good Soldiers Never Die
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From my local newspaper

Post by Dagger X-Ray » Fri Mar 23, 2007 4:12 pm

For Marine, the devil crept in at Nasiriyah
Iraq veteran from Titusville fights post-traumatic stress disorder

TITUSVILLE, FLA - The loaded gun stays close. When he goes to bed, Bill Pickering keeps it within reach.

But the weapon brings little comfort to the Iraq war veteran.

Sleep is elusive. Nightmares are frequent -- dismembered hands in the Iraqi desert, little children wailing, or the faces of Marine colleagues in Co. C, killed in the battle of Nasiriyah this date four years ago.

"When we were in the Marines, we were told to stay in the red --" to be on the alert -- "all the time," Pickering said. "Little did we know that we would stay in the red for the rest of our lives."

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, keeps him there.

As the war in Iraq enters its fifth year this week, 25-year-old Pickering is the local representative of a burgeoning statistic: About 31 percent of veterans returning from Afghanistan and this Iraq war have been treated for mental health disorders, according to a new study by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

And of the almost 104,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who sought medical help at Veterans Affairs hospitals between September 2001 and the end of 2005, nearly 13 percent were diagnosed with PTSD. The study found the affliction more prevalent among younger returnees.

Bloody battle

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, in a flash of patriotism and anger, the 20-year-old Pickering joined U.S. Marine Corps.

While at a training camp in North Carolina, he got a tattoo on his shoulder that reads, "Expect no mercy."

As one of the first recruits sent to Iraq, Pickering engaged the enemy as American military units advanced toward Baghdad.

"This is the real deal," he remembers telling himself as the fighting escalated around him.

On March 23, 2003, a muggy and sweltering day, he saw 18 Marines and several soldiers mowed down by sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades near Iraq's "Ambush Alley," a treacherous roadway near the southern city of Nasiriyah.

That day remains one of the bloodiest for the American armed forces in Iraq.

The Titusville resident said he has never recovered, physically or mentally.

Since his honorable but early discharge three years ago, he has fought an endless battle to cobble his life back together.

"Sometimes it is hard just to get through the day," Pickering said.

These days, he likes to play the guitar and go fishing.

But he is not sure what the future holds, except the daily cocktail of painkillers, antidepressants and sleep medications prescribed by VA doctors to treat a persistent combat injury.

He receives disability payments and tells people he is "retired."

Pickering is not sure whether he will work again.

"I don't know, man," he said. "I really don't."

Innocence gone

Paranoia is common. As are sudden bursts of anger. Anxiety and depression are other symptoms PTSD sufferers face.

The VA clinic in Viera has treated 39 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD symptoms, according to Barry Stanley, public affairs officer at the Orlando VA Medical Center.

Treating and supporting those with PTSD will have an unknown financial cost for the nation.

As a result of the Vietnam War, which ended more than 30 years ago, some 179,713 Vietnam veterans were being compensated for PTSD as a war-related disability in 2005.

Dr. Mike Colson, clinical outreach coordinator at the Seattle Vet Center, can empathize with each PTSD sufferer.

He is a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered from acute post-traumatic stress.

Colson, 50, was so paranoid after he came back from Iraq in 2005 that he slept on his garage floor for eight months.

He said support from family and a psychiatrist helped him overcome his problems.

"It is hard to readjust to civilian life," Colson said. "Iraq, in some ways, might have been a much more simpler place to live."

Colson is trying to make that readjustment easier for others.

For two years, he and some other veterans have run a nonprofit Web site called PTSD- where returning service members can find help.

"Many who come back with PTSD are in denial," Colson said. "The first step is to seek help."

Dr. Gloria Neumann, a psychologist and the coordinator of the PTSD program at the Orlando VA Medical Center, said she tries to help her patients work through the painful memories.

"Sometimes they might never be the same person again," Neumann said.

Family in pain

Pickering knows that feeling. Some days, all he wants to do is shoot guns.

For a while, he went to the gym frequently.

But because of degenerative disc disease and injuries he suffered when he tried to leap from the top of an armored car as it was attacked, Pickering had to stop working out.

"You know the kind of adrenaline rush you get when you are in a fistfight?" he said. "I feel like that all the time."

Some days, he likes to watch the History Channel. A few months ago, after a documentary called "Iraq's Ambush Alley" aired, Pickering was on edge for days.

"It really hurt to see him like that," said his girlfriend, Mistie Smith.

Both of Pickering's grandfathers served in World War II. His father is a Vietnam veteran.

"It is a family tradition," said Rhonda Patrick, his mother, who lives in New Smyrna Beach.

"He wanted to do the right thing for his country."

She remembers her son as easygoing and carefree.

"When a woman has a baby, it changes her," Patrick said.

"When a man, goes to war, it changes him."
Dagger X-Ray - ARMY
(12/91 - present) - miss the service
(9/90 - 12/91) 2nd Bde 1st Infantry Division - Desert Shield / Desert Storm Combat VET
(9/88 - 9/90) C-17th Signal Battalion of 22nd Signal Brigade - Sachsenhausen Bar Scene VET
(4/88 - 9/88) AIT Fort Gordon, Ga
(12/87 - 3/88) Basic Training Fort Jackson, SC
"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
-George Orwell
"I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight."
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Good Soldiers Never Die
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Post by bilbo37 » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:24 am

I hope that he can get help.
Good Soldiers Never Die
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Joined: Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:00 pm
Your Gulf War Unit: B Co. 7/159 Avn. Regt.
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Post by Redmaxx » Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:06 am

I hope that he does as well. I am happy that someone published that article so that people can see what it does to you. It seems like most people forget what you have gone through and expect you to be the way that you were before or be like everyone else.
B Co. 7/159 Avn. Regt.
SSR Platoon
Operation Desert Shield/Storm/Cease Fire 1990/1991
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