Alex Horton slays the PTSD dragon

| January 6, 2012

Our drinking buddy, Alex Horton, formerly of the excellent military blog, Army of Dude, and currently the social media honcho at the Department of Veterans Affairs, knocks another one out of the park with his post today “The Mt. Rainier Shooting and PTSD: How the Media Got It Wrong“. This is why he beat us in the 2008 Weblog Awards shoot out;

When I asked her today, VA clinical psychologist Dr. Sonja Batten said that “despite this image in pop culture of the dangerous, unstable Veteran, there is no direct, causal link between combat-related PTSD and the type of violence shown at Mt. Rainier. Although PTSD is associated with increased anger and irritability in some individuals—whether civilians or Veterans—this sort of negative portrayal of Veterans is unfair and does a disservice to those individuals who have served our country. We work every day in VA to dispel these negative and inaccurate stereotypes.”

In other words, the misguided and incorrect correlation between military service and violent crimes like murder can lead to damaging stereotypes that can inhibit the success of Vets once they leave the military. The Texas Veterans Commission says some employers have reservations about hiring Veterans because they may show signs of post-traumatic signs in the workplace. Hiring managers may think they’re getting a Travis Bickle instead of a “Sully” Sullenberger.

He wrote to tell us that he was working on this post yesterday, so we’ve been keeping our eyes open for it. You really need to read the whole thing.

Category: Veterans Issues, Veterans' Affairs Department

Comments (11)

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  1. I often get asked if I have PTSD. I usually say: “I had a dream I was eating a giant marshmellow.

    I woke up and my pillow was gone.”

    That confuses the helll out of most people. Nope, I actually enjoyed my deployments.

  2. Poohbah, Lord High Everything Else says:

    The “Violence-prone Veteran” lets the Left be just as bigoted as the KKK is, while feigning compassion.

  3. Old Trooper says:

    We have the anti-war crowd of the 60’s to thank for the stereotype. Kerry/Fonda perpetuated the lie with the whole “Winter Soldier” bullshit and hollyweird ran with it. Every movie that included a Vietnam Vet had them portrayed as a c-hair away from going postal for someone looking at them wrong. It even carried over into the 80’s movies i.e. Rambo, First Blood, FB part II, Rambo’s Revenge, Rambo’s Pissed Off Lovechild, etc. The Lethal Weapon series (Martin Riggs was “on the edge”) and other various bullshit movies.

    Now, they want to relive those heady days and portray todays Vets the same as they did then. It was a disservice to Vietnam Vets and I truely believe that the stereotyped stigma hindered some of the Vietnam Vets to reintegrate back into society normally. They were called baby killers, murderers, etc. They had to endure being spit on and having piss and shit thrown at them. Small wonder so many of them were ashamed of their service, to have to deal with that first thing out the doors of the airport.

  4. CI says:

    Good on Alex….I had followed his blog until he went to VA.

    I have no doubt that I could receive a diagnosis for PTSD, but because I treasure my clearance and my CCW permit….I will never even attempt it for exactly the reasons Alex lays out, “highly publicized crimes by active duty members and Veterans cast the overwhelming majority of law abiding Vets in a horrifying—and typically unfair—light”.

  5. TSO says:

    That piece was simply outstanding. Alex is a sharp cat.

  6. A fine article, but sadly of little use in the real world.

    OT #3: I actually think the first Rambo (before it was renamed First Blood) was a fine movie, but there’s no arguing with the balance of your comment. I know several ‘Nam vets who saw it as an insightful and stress relieving sort of movie.

    While I can’t claim being particularly prescient I will lay claim to offering BOHICA for some years.

  7. Scouts Out says:

    Old Trooper good points about Rambo but I think you’re reading too much into Lethal Weapon. Riggs was crazy because his wife was killed in a car wreck. If you’ll remember Murtagh was also a Vietnam vet and he was portrayed as a by the book cop and not a loose cannon.

  8. defendUSA says:

    Alex’s post also reminds me of the B5 post by Grim, on PTSD. An excellent one to read as well as Alex’s stuff. He nails it.

  9. AverageNCO says:

    It’s sad how history repeats itself. B.G. Burkett covered this topic extensively in his book, “Stolen Valor”, regarding Vietnam vets. I just can’t wait to enter the job market next year…..I’ll simply tell folks I left my straight-jacket in the car.

  10. Tman says:

    I would even mention the movie Taxi Driver. It was a bit more subtle, but the Travis Bickle character casually mentions his service in the Marines when interviewing for a job. To say that Travis is a bit mentally unstable is putting things lightly.

    But thanks to the tireless efforts of the media, what started with the Vietnam war has now extended to veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan.

    The problem is, PTSD has become a convenient excuse and crutch for any person that served in those countries, regardless of MOS or actual combat or traumatic experiences. I don’t know how things work with claiming these things, but to me it seems like anyone can claim PTSD for the smallest reasons. We see it constantly in the news, veterans claiming PTSD for sexual assault, murder, etc. etc. I mean, when an Air Force mechanic claims PTSD in order to try to get out of killing someone in a road accident, something is very wrong with the picture.

    These people have made a mockery of PTSD and the whole situation. It’s not only the media to blame, it’s also these military personnel abusing the system by claiming something that is not true.

  11. fm2176 says:

    I’ve never been officially diagnosed with PTSD, but did participate in Walter Reed’s Acupuncture Treatment Study a few years ago (which was confidential and not entered into my records). I proudly display the certificate of completion I got for it despite having gone to BNCOC before I could actually finish it. Everyone who asks what it is for quickly drops the subject when I told them. 🙂

    I drink, occasionally recall past events (experienced not only during my time in the military but also during my civilian life), am at times extremely alert, and try to avoid certain situations, but never once have I considered locking and loading against a non-criminal American. In fact, perhaps my worst “PTSD” is from four years of working in DC. Now I get irritable if I have to drive anywhere during rush hour, and often plan entire trips around traffic (Atlanta is always driven through between 1100-1430, and if I go to MEPS in New Orleans, I always leave before 1500).

    As Tman states above, many of those veterans who claim PTSD are people who might never have even heard a shot fired in anger. I can understand it to an extent as self-preservation and a yearning to keep one’s freedom would cause most of us to use any avenue we may have. Oops, I just made a big mistake, I realize it, I’m looking at years in prison or worse, time to pull the PTSD card and anything else that might gain me a bit of sympathy from the judge and jury. Some people will use anything they can for personal gain: I had one soldier in TOG who was a constant problem child and, after over four years, began convincing the new command that his issues were due to him wanting to be assigned to a combat unit. He received PCS orders, got arrested on a gun charge, and from what I understand got the charges dismissed due to his “pending deployment”. He was kicked out for unrelated events a couple of months later. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has “PTSD” now whenever it suits him.

    As for Rambo, David Morrell’s book–which the movie was based on–was one of the few I took to Kuwait (Catch-22 was another). I’ve always enjoyed the book much more than the movie as the characters seem much more human. Also, Teasle’s (the Sheriff) attitude about Rambo and relentlessness in his pursuit are given much more explanation that him just being another a-hole cop. He was awarded the DSC in Korea and views Rambo as a scofflaw, which is soon proven when Rambo goes off the deep end. Long story short, while the film Rambo tried to avoid bloodshed and is designed as a sympathetic character, the book Rambo kills well over a dozen of his pursuers and is ultimately killed himself after a long cat and mouse game with the Sheriff. I just found this comparison that helped me confirm some of my memories: