As investigators scramble to determine the “triggering” event behind the April 2, 2014 shooting at Fort Hood that claimed the lives of four individuals and injured 16, some are quick to suggest that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health related issues were the cause.
United States Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor, is on record for battling with PTS after coming home from Afghanistan where he risked his life to recover the remains of three fallen soldiers. He suggested that to label PTS as the cause will do a great disservice to those servicemembers who are working to recover.
Sgt. Meyer feels so strongly that this is not an accurate labeling of events that he told FOX News, “PTSD does not put you in the mindset to go out and kill innocent people. The media label this shooting PTSD, but if what that man did is PTSD, then I don’t have it.”
He called the actions of Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, “close to psychotic.”
The facts are that a greater number of civilians suffer from PTS than those who have served in combat operations or the military. For those who don’t know, PTSD (some experts drop the “d” because they don’t recognize the symptoms as a “disorder”) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event – often one that is life-threatening.
When it comes to the symptoms, they can manifest almost immediately after the event or sometimes it can take years. Worth noting is that not all people who experience a traumatic event experience PTSD. Studies show that maybe one out of three will actually show symptoms.
Frequent symptoms are feeling numb (non-emotional), anger issues, increased irritability and trouble concentrating. These often lead to increased drinking and drug use, feelings of hopelessness, and relationship challenges.
On a personal note, I tend to agree with Sgt. Meyer. Lopez lost sight of his mission and purpose and allowed circumstances to cloud his vision. This act was certainly not representative of those in uniform and those who are overcoming PTSD.
Finally, to answer a question that was posed to me last week: “Is the Fort Hood shooting just the beginning of more frequent and similar tragic events?” I’d like to be able to tell you – absolutely not. This is one individual who chose to do something incredibly bad instead of good – and unfortunately, in this case, it grabbed national headlines. And it may cause people to pause when around those in uniform or who have served. But rest assured, the majority of those who serve and have served would give their own life for someone else…not take yours.
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.