Lately, the military has faced much scrutiny relating to drone attacks, job availability for veterans, crimes against civilians and even crimes involving soldiers hazing fellow soldiers.
Yet, one of most controversial topics revolves around understanding the medical conditions of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The media and families around the dinner table throw around these acronyms as a means to reconcile the recent case building up around Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.
If you’ve lived under a rock for about two months, the name Army Staff Sgt. Bales might not ring any bells.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s song Call Me Maybe is the most talked about news at Miami, while the name of the man accused of committing one of the worst U.S. crimes in a decade-long war goes unrecognizable.
As a refresher, in early March Bales was charged with 17 counts of murder after killing civilians in the Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.
At this time, Bales’ alleged outbursts are speculated as a result of TBI and undiagnosed PTSD.
The Seattle Times reported Monday within the next four to six weeks Bales will be examined by, “an Army panel of doctors to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial on charges of murdering 17 Afghan villagers, according to an Army official briefed on the case.”
Both medical conditions affect tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel across the board.
But the problem is many soldiers suffering from PTSD, for instance, may be living undiagnosed.
According to The Washington Post, Bales told his legal team, “he has long woken up with night sweats, often replaying memories of a grisly episode that he and his infantry company witnessed in Iraq several years ago, according to John Henry Browne, a civilian lawyer.”
Does this mean, the tormented Army soldier showed signs of PTSD symptoms leading up to his shooting rampage?
Or is he just using the medical condition as an excuse and easy way out of a court martial hearing?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after an individual goes through a traumatic event, such as, war, assault or a disaster, according to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.
Apparently it is normal to experience levels of stress following a trauma, but if the stress ensues and begins disrupting the comfort of daily life, the possibility of PTSD increases.
If an individual suffers from a traumatic event, he or she may experience difficulty sleeping and upsetting memories.
The National Center for PTSD encourages any victims to seek help if such reactions worsen or do not go away. There are four types of symptoms: reliving the event, avoiding situations that are reminders of the event, feeling numb and feeling hyper-alert.
Bales was on his fourth deployment and seemed to fit the description of a distressed soldier suffering from PTSD from what he told his attorney.
The Army has 67 percent of PTSD cases, the Air Force has 9 percent, the Navy has 11 percent and the Marines have 13 percent, according to the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General. Moreover, could traumatic brain injury be another factor to justify the massacre?
Bales did experience a minor head injury during one of his tours in Iraq.
According to The Washington Post, “Browne said Bales also attributed his headaches to a concussive brain injury he suffered in Iraq when the Stryker vehicle he was riding in hit a roadside bomb and flipped over. No one was killed, but Bales was unconscious for an unspecified period.”
Does this injury constitute a TBI status? Unlike PTSD, TBI occurs during, not after, some type of trauma like an accident, blast or fall, according to The National Center for PTSD. A TBI relates closely to a concussion and it may vary in severity.
Consequently, many people who have a TBI also develop PSTD. But both medical conditions are difficult to diagnose because there may not be any physical signs of a TBI and some people do not seek help when they experience PTSD symptoms.
Ultimately, with tens of thousands of American military personnel suffering from these conditions, how many of them are actively seeking treatment so events like Bales’ shooting sprees don’t happen?
But more importantly, sustainable protocol is needed to ensure soldiers are receiving the proper medical care to do their jobs effectively.
So who is to blame?