Coming home but left behind

Illustration by Trevor Moore

I’m just going to come right out and address the elephant in the room.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a real monster and big problem for members of the military.

It is not battle fatigue or some screwed-up side effect of honor, but a horrible aftermath of war or other traumatic events.

Victims of this mental health condition normally suffer in silence with symptoms such as reliving their traumatic experiences, negative changes in mood or attitude and feeling jittery.

These symptoms continue until the afflicted person gets help. If they don’t, they may become violent and harm themselves or others.

By now, everyone’s heard of Chris Kyle. “American Sniper,” the movie about his life, has been in theaters for almost a month now.

Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper who found himself having trouble adjusting to life back home after four tours in Iraq. After writing the autobiography the movie is based on, he began helping fellow veterans with their transition back into civilian life.

Unfortunately, he was allegedly murdered by one of the very men he was trying to help.

This man, who goes on trial next week for the murder of Kyle and his friend, was reportedly suffering from PTSD when Kyle took him to a shooting range in an effort to help him deal with the side effects.

While I hate to speak ill of the dead, that probably wasn’t the smartest decision on Kyle’s part since the noises and atmosphere of the shooting range is most likely what set the man off.

While movies like “American Sniper” are opening more people’s eyes to PTSD, it’s often still a taboo subject for people coming home from the military.

They’ve been taking care of themselves and their country for a long time, so it’s hard for them to ask for help when they need it because they’ve always had to be the strong ones.

As a country, America needs to try to break away from this idea of leaving its soldiers behind. Especially if they’re silently suffering in their own personal hells because it’s not considered strong to admit defeat and ask for help.

This stigma needs to be eradicated so this country’s military veterans can get the help they need before it’s too late.

Places like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion and even Chico State’s own Office of Veterans Affairs are there to help once soldiers are ready to come forward.

But until America starts to take notice of this problem, its troops will continue to return home only to be left behind.

Megan Mann can be reached at [email protected] or @meganisthemann on Twitter.